On October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States dashed the hopes of the business community for relief from website access litigation when it announced that it had denied Domino’s Pizza, LLC’s petition for certiorari. The petition sought review of a recent decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In early 2018, Minnesota federal courts issued two decisions dismissing so-called “drive-by” disability access lawsuits under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That trend has continued in 2019. In fact, in just the past two months, courts in Minnesota have dismissed, in whole or in part, no fewer than six Title III cases, again reminding business owners that liability is far from automatic in these lawsuits.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its highly-anticipated website accessibility opinion in Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, reaffirming the obligation to make retailers’ websites accessible and rejecting the due process and primary jurisdiction arguments commonly asserted by defendants in website accessibility litigation.
The Department of Justice has finally broken its long silence on website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the news is both good and bad.
In its second pro-plaintiff decision in as many months, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that blind website accessibility plaintiffs need not show that difficulty using a place of public accommodation’s website also caused a lack of equal access to the physical place of the public accommodation.
Bringing at least temporary relief to hundreds of businesses operating in Arizona, the state’s presiding disciplinary judge entered an order suspending Arizona attorney Peter Strojnik from the practice of law on an indefinite basis.
On June 19, 2018, in Haynes v. Hooters of America, LLC, 2018 WL 3030840 (11th Cir. 2018), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals eliminated a useful defense strategy in the website accessibility arena when it held that a business’s agreement to remediate its website in a prior, private settlement did not render moot subsequent actions seeking the same relief.
In two rulings arising in Minnesota in March of 2018, federal courts reminded litigants that business owners have various defenses that can effectively shut down so-called “drive by” disability access lawsuits prior to trial.
The House of Representatives passed a bill on February 15, 2018, that requires Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III plaintiffs to provide businesses with notice and an opportunity to cure any barriers before filing suit. The Senate must also pass a version of the bill before it can be sent to the White House for signing. Senate passage is reported as uncertain.
In a proposed consent decree submitted for preliminary approval to the federal district court in Denver on December 29, 2017, the owners and operators of the Pepsi Center arena in Denver reached an agreement with a proposed class of deaf and hard of hearing plaintiffs to provide open captioning of all aural (spoken or heard) content at games played and concerts held at the arena.
In a move that surprises no one, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced today, December 26, 2017, that it has officially withdrawn its two Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) related to website accessibility: one under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applicable to state and local governments and one under Title III applicable to private businesses open to the public.
Just as one flood of lawsuits against Arizona businesses finally dries up, another downpour begins. Peter Strojnik of Phoenix, the same attorney who filed more than 1,100 lawsuits that drew the attention of the Arizona attorney general, has filed approximately 60 new lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against motels and places of lodging in the last three months in federal court in Arizona.
On November 8, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire joined the ranks of the federal courts that have held that a website itself is a place of public accommodation—even if the business that maintains the website does not own or operate any physical place of public accommodation.
A federal district court in Los Angeles last week endorsed the possibility that a business may be able to avoid making a website accessible if it provides the same goods and services through telephonic customer service.
On August 8, 2017, the Nevada attorney general moved to intervene in an action brought by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) serial litigant Kevin Zimmerman and to consolidate it with the more than 150 other pending Zimmerman actions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has placed its once-planned website accessibility regulations under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on an inactive list, putting to rest speculation about what the Trump administration may do with respect to the long-promised regulations.
On May 23, 2017, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law amendments to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) that are intended to curb the flood of “drive-by” disability access lawsuits in the state.
In a victory for owners of facilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld a property owner’s right to seek contribution from third parties who fail to perform their obligations to the owner to design or build a facility that complies with the ADA.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey just signed into law an amendment to the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA) designed to make it more difficult to bring lawsuits against businesses based on claims that they are not accessible to individuals with disabilities. The amendment requires potential plaintiffs to give business owners notice of alleged access violations and allows businesses 30-90 days to correct the issues before a lawsuit can be filed.
On March 20, 2017, a federal district judge in Los Angeles granted Domino’s Pizza’s motion to dismiss a website accessibility lawsuit in a ruling that raises hopes for those battling the massive wave of web accessibility litigation and arguably makes it more difficult for businesses to decide between fight or flight.
It’s true. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is taking the position that an emotional support animal may be a required reasonable accommodation in the workplace. In January, we explained that federal (and most states’) public accommodation laws do not require businesses and organizations to accommodate disabled individuals with regard to their requested use of emotional support dogs or other animals. Some state laws and city ordinances even make it a crime to try to pass off an emotional support dog or pet as a legally-protected, disability-related service animal.
An Arizona judge dismissed more than 1,100 lawsuits against Arizona businesses alleging that their parking lots are not accessible to persons with disabilities. Judge David M. Talamante rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA) permits any person who believes a place of public accommodation has violated the act to bring a civil action.
It was only a matter of time until the flood of litigation over the accessibility of websites to persons with disabilities reached Arizona. Recently it did when an Arizona man and his attorney filed lawsuits against four Arizona businesses alleging that their websites are not accessible to blind and visually impaired consumers in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA). All of the lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona by Joseph Charles on behalf of James Close, who claims to be a resident of Texas and legally blind.
The U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) finalized a regulation this week that will make the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) Level AA the design standard when interpreting and implementing Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires federal agencies and contractors to make their websites accessible to disabled individuals. Affected federal agencies and contractors will have one year from the publication of the final rule to comply with the revised 508 standards, which would place the compliance deadline sometime in early 2018.
Individuals wishing to begin the new year by taking a beloved pet or emotional support animal out to a restaurant may run into new legal deterrents in some states. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) entitles people with disabilities to bring “service animals” into public places such as restaurants and stores, many individuals do not realize which animals the law covers.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it is expediting its timetable and expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding accessibility of state and local government websites in July of 2017. The comment period for this NPRM would close in September of 2017. The DOJ’s announcement in the Unified Agenda also indicated that it continues to expect the regulations under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act to pave the way for the Title III regulations applicable to private businesses’ websites.
Are public accommodations required to admit personal care providers for free? That’s the question that the lawyers in our Disability Access Practice Group have been hearing with increasing frequency since the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a decision in May of 2016 holding that The Franklin Institute, a nonprofit museum, was required to offer complimentary admission to the personal care attendant of a severely disabled individual. Below we provide a brief overview of the case and its currently narrow reach, an even shorter critique of the decision, and finally a summary of what your public accommodation may want to consider in the wake of the decision.