[co-author: Susan Ryan]
As we had predicted, the number of website accessibility lawsuits (i.e. lawsuits alleging that plaintiffs with a disability could not use websites because they were not coded to work with assistive technologies like screen readers, or otherwise accessible to them) filed in federal court under Title III of the ADA exploded in 2018 to at least 2258 – increasing by 177% from 814 such lawsuits in 2017.
Graph: ADA Title III Website Accessibility Lawsuits in Federal Court: 2017-2018: 2017: 814; 2018: 2258, 177% increase over 2017. *The number of cases that could be identified through a diligent search.]
Plaintiffs filed these federal ADA Title III lawsuits in fourteen states—New York and Florida being the most busy jurisdictions with 564 and 576 lawsuits, respectively. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts held distant third and fourth positions, as shown in the chart below.
[Graph: Top 10 States for ADA Title III Website Accessibility Lawsuits in 2018: NY 1564, FL 576, PA 42, MA 26, CA 10, OH 9, VA 8, IL 7, TX 7. *The number of cases that could be identified through a diligent search.]
The number of New York federal website accessibility lawsuits is staggering, brought primarily by fifteen law firms/lawyers. The lawyers appearing most frequently on filings are Joseph Mizrahi, Jonathan Shalom, Doug Lipsky, C.K. Lee, Bradley Marks, and Jeffrey Gottlieb. We saw a surge in these cases after New York federal judges allowed website accessibility cases to proceed to discovery in lawsuits against Blick Art and Five Guys. The 2018 New York website accessibility filing statistic brought New York into a close second to California in the total number of ADA Title III lawsuits (not just website accessibility cases) filed in federal court.
The fact that the California federal courts only had ten website accessibility lawsuits filings in 2018 may be a surprise to some since California continues to lead the pack in the number of all ADA Title III lawsuit filings in federal court. However, it appears that plaintiffs filed their new cases in state court after a federal judge in the Central District of California dismissed a website accessibility lawsuit against Dominos’ in 2017. The Ninth Circuit reversed that dismissal last month, making California federal court an attractive venue for plaintiffs once again. We predict that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling will cause the number of website accessibility lawsuits in California federal courts to increase dramatically in 2019.
About our methodology: Our 2018 numbers are based on searches using keywords of data from the Courthouse News Services. Thus, it is possible that there are some website accessibility cases that were not captured in the searches if their descriptions did not include the keywords. We then review the thousands of entries manually to remove lawsuits that may be about websites but are not about a website’s accessibility to a user with a disability. For example, there were a number of lawsuits in 2018 brought by plaintiffs with mobility disabilities alleging that the reservations websites of hotels did not provide adequate information about the accessibility of hotel facilities. We also removed a number of lawsuits brought against state and local government entities under Title II of the ADA for having inaccessible websites.