Southern District of New York Holds that Title III of the ADA Applies to Websites as Their Own Places of Public Accommodation

On July 21, 2017, in Lucia Marett v. Five Guys Enterprises LLC, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) does, in fact, apply to websites as their own places of public accommodation.

By way of background, Defendant owns and operates casual dining restaurants as well as a website that allows customers to order food online for delivery or pick-up. Plaintiff, who is legally blind, claimed that she was unable to use Defendant’s website because Defendant failed to make its website and its features equally accessible to all their customers, including blind customers. As a result, blind customers were being denied the same online access enjoyed by nondisabled customers.

Plaintiff thereafter brought a class action lawsuit against Defendant alleging that its website violated the ADA due to it being inaccessible to the blind. Plaintiff claimed that recent technological advances have made it possible for Defendant to make their website friendly for the visually impaired, but have simply chosen not to do so. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the ADA only applies to physical facilities and not websites and, even if it did, the case was moot because Defendant was in the process of updating its website to provide accessibility.

The Southern District denied Defendant’s motion and held that “Defendants’ website is covered under the ADA, either as its own place of public accommodation or as a result of its close relationship as a service of Defendant’s restaurants, which indisputably are public accommodations under [the ADA].” The court even stated that “Plaintiff has identified steps that defendant can take to ensure equal access to its website by the blind, such as by using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.”

Further, the court also rejected Defendant’s argument that Plaintiff’s claims were moot because Defendant was in the process of updating the accessibility of its website, stating that, “[w]hile [D]efendant may be in the process of updating the accessibility of its website, they have yet to successfully do so. Defendant has not established that ‘it is absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur.’”

If you are disabled and have been denied access to, and unable to use all the features of, a specific website due to your disability, it’s important that you immediately consult with a New York City discrimination attorney to learn about, and preserve, all your legal rights.

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