I’m re-cycling a picture from April because there’s another lawyer recycling a money-making strategy that’s been in use for quite a while. I’ve been hired in the last few weeks by four clients who received demand letters from a freshly minted one year lawyer in Alabama³ who claims to represent a vision impaired gentleman named Donald Wilson. He claims Mr. Wilson is prepared to file suit in the Eastern District of New York against businesses with websites that are not accessible. We’ve seen this before.¹ The demand letters seem to be cut and paste copies of demands from various serial filers, as is the draft complaint that accompany his letters. Although he was only admitted to the bar in 2020 and he does not appear to be a member of the New York bar the draft complaints are captioned to be filed in the Eastern District of New York. In addition to my own clients I have fielded calls from lawyers and businesses all over the country who received such demand letters, so he seems to regard the entire U.S. as his territory. I could find no record of him having filed a lawsuit in federal court anywhere in the United States. The letters do not suggest any in-depth knowledge of what website accessibility means or of the law concerning website accessibility.
There is no doubt that under one theory or another most websites associated with a physical place of business are required by the ADA to be accessible. At the same time, recent decisions in the Supreme Court, Fifth Circuit and other courts make it clear that serial plaintiffs are unlikely to have standing to sue or seek injunctive relief.² This is especially true of a plaintiff like Mr. Wilson who presumably lives in Alabama and cannot plausibly claim he wanted t0 buy furniture from stores that sell only locally. Serving customers with disabilities is a good practical reason to make your website accessible. Doing the right thing is a good moral reason to make your website accessible. Responding to a demand from someone like this lawyer is not.
¹ See my blogs Same old wine in a brand new bottle, Legal Justice Advocates – a New Kids on the Block Update and others that these link to.
² See my blogs Transunion v Ramirez – has the Supreme Court put an end to cheap standing in ADA litigation?, and the other blogs referred to in the footnotes.
³ I have removed the name from this blog because the attorney tells me that as of September 2022 he has gotten out of the ADA demand business and is pursuing other areas of practice.