July 6, 2017
Authored by: Robert Klingler, Merrit Jones and Jennifer Dempsey
Although the frequency of bank clients receiving demand letters related to violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) based on website (in)accessibility seems to be declining, Bryan Cave lawyers around the country continue to be actively involved in defending such claims in other industries. In addition to working with the Georgia Bankers Association and the California Bankers Association, Bryan Cave has published updates through a number of blogs that may be of value to our banking clients.
In April, Start Up Bryan Cave, our blog focusing on start ups of all kinds, published “Best Practices for your Corporate Website: How to Avoid an ADA Claim.”
Making your company’s website ADA compliant now, before your company is a target of a lawsuit or a demand letter, makes good business sense. It will open your company up to more potential customers, limit your liability, position you to deal effectively with the regulatory challenges of growth, improve your company’s reputation in the marketplace and is simply the right thing to do. Also, being proactive in establishing compliance protocols for your growing company will cause you to stand out among your competitors, make you more attractive to potential investors and partners, and can greatly mitigate any regulatory actions if a regulatory agency decides to audit your business.
In June, BC Retail Law, our blog focusing on clients in the retail sector, published “Retailer Loses ADA Website Accessibility Trial” about the first ADA accessibility litigation to go to trial. The Court held that Winn-Dixie violated Title III of the ADA because its website was inaccessible to the visually impaired plaintiff.
[D]espite the fact that Winn-Dixie does not conduct sales through its website, the Court found that the website was “heavily integrated” with the physical store locations because customers can use the website to access digital coupons, find store locations, and refill prescriptions through the website.
In July, BC Retail Law published an update on another federal trial also going against the website provider: “California Federal Court Denies Hobby Lobby’s Motion to Dismiss.”
In Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Case No. 2:17-cv-01131-JFW-SK (C.D. Cal. June 15, 2017), the district court denied Hobby Lobby’s motion to dismiss and held that the retailer’s website constitutes a “public accommodation” under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In so holding, the court noted that the website allows consumers to purchase products, search for store locations, view special pricing offers, obtain coupons, and purchase gift cards. The court also relied on Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regulations requiring public accommodations to use auxiliary aids and services to “communicate effectively” with disabled customers.