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. That decision held that:
- Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to the Domino’s website,
- Domino’s received fair notice that its website and mobile application were required to comply with the ADA,
- permitting the lawsuit to proceed did not violate the due process rights of Domino’s, despite the lack of specific governmental guidelines regarding website accessibility from the Department of Justice (DOJ), and
- the district court’s invocation of the primary jurisdiction doctrine to defer to the DOJ’s rulemaking process was inappropriate.
While the business community had hoped that the Supreme Court would step in and offer some guidance on this topic or even put a stop to the seemingly endless stream of website accessibility litigation that did not happen. Instead, the Supreme Court’s decision (to not make a decision) has the effect of maintaining the status quo with respect to website accessibility, which varies by jurisdiction and is frustratingly unspecific throughout the United States.
However, owners and operators of public accommodations can take solace in the fact that, while the Court’s refusal to hear this case will not cause website accessibility claims to cease, we should not see an increase in such cases. Had the Supreme Court taken up this cause, we may have seen plaintiffs rushing to file lawsuits before a possible end to this revenue stream, and had the Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit decision, the law in this area would be consistently unfavorable to businesses, regardless of jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court’s denial of the Domino’s petition has quashed expectations that we may have an answer to the question of whether Title III of the ADA applies to websites or what compliance with Title III of the ADA entails. Until another case makes its way to the Supreme Court or the DOJ issues guidance, businesses must continue to navigate this evolving area of law without any direction from the legislative or judicial branches.