Website Accessibility Lawsuits By the Numbers

Seyfarth Shaw LLP
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[co-author: Christopher Im, Melissa Aristizabal]

Website accessibility is an evolving and complicated topic, about which we’ve written many times.  Thanks to delayed regulations and the Department of Justice’s changing positions on the issue, businesses have been caught off guard and plaintiffs’ attorneys are seizing on the uncertainty.  We have seen a surge of demand letters and lawsuits against public accommodations alleging inaccessible websites.  Like we do with Title III lawsuits generally, we are tracking web accessibility lawsuits to keepyou up to date on the trends.

Since January 1, 2015, 61 lawsuits alleging that a defendant’s inaccessible website violates Title III of the ADA have been filed or removed to federal court. These cases have been filed in 5 states – Pennsylvania, California, New York, Massachusetts, and Washington – with a small handful of plaintiffs filing virtually all of the lawsuits. The most litigious plaintiffs include Dominick Martin (9 suits, CA), Christian Diaz (8 suits, NY, mostly class actions), Robert Jahoda (6 suits, PA), Edward Davis (5 suits, CA), Jose Del-Orden (3 suits, NY, mostly class actions) and Cheryl Thurston (3 suits, CA). In Pennsylvania, Michelle Sipe and Jill Gross, often filing jointly with Access Now, Inc., Scott Lacey, Jessica Hodges, and Debra Rozear, have a current combined total of 19 cases

We are often asked which industry is most targeted by web accessibility suits.  Retailers are the clear winner, as can be seen in the chart below.

Also of note are the lawsuits about which we’ve previously written filed against universities and online-only businesses.

Only three of these defendants have actively fought the lawsuits thus far.

Both the universities and a bank filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits, but the judges rejected those motions and allowed the cases to proceed to discovery.

Most of these lawsuits have settled, though new cases continue to be filed.

Finally, it is interesting to note that one plaintiff filed six cases in California against various retailers alleging that he was unable to apply for a job through the defendants’ allegedly inaccessible online job application processes and that the defendants offered no acceptable alternative accommodations for his vision disability.  This employment-related website accessibility issue falls outside this blog’s ADA Title III focus, but is still an important cautionary tale for all businesses who use online application processes. In addition, while we do not include Title II lawsuits in our data, we note that one such Title II web accessibility suit was recently filed against Ohio’s Secretary of State.

Our methodology: As with our national lawsuit data, the effort to come up with these numbers is a labor-intensive, manual process. Because Pacer does not keep track of the type of ADA Title III lawsuits filed, we know that there are at least these 61 cases based on our analyses. Short of manually reading every complaint, there’s no way to capture all of these specific suits.  In other words, there is always the possibility of some human error and we hope you’ll forgive us if the numbers are slightly off.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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