Scales of Justice

Over 150 Digital Accessibility Lawsuits Filed in June 2018

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At least 154 digital accessibility lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were filed in federal court in June 2018.

ADA Lawsuits in June 2018 Breakdown by Industry Retail/Consumer Products - 43 Consumer/Business Services - 28 Real Estate - 27 Hospitals/Healthcare/Managed Care - 17 Restaurants/Food Manufacturing - 13 Banking/Financial Services - 8 Other* - 5 Hotels - 4 Telecommunications - 3 Utilities - 2 Media - 2 Museums - 2 *In June, the Other category included lawsuits in the Industrial Manufacturing, Insurance, Oil and Gas, Sports, and State and Local Government industries.

The retail, consumer products, services, and real estate industries particularly hard hit. Together, these market segments accounted for about 64% of all cases filed in June.

The retail and consumer products market segment accounted for 43, or approximately 28%, of the 154 lawsuits filed during June. Among those sued were a large number of cosmetic manufacturers and retailers, as well as several high-end clothing retailers.Consumer and business services firms were also hard hit, with 28 lawsuits representing 18% of digital accessibility cases filed in June. The bulk of these lawsuits targeted fitness chains such as gyms and yoga studios.

Real Estate rounds out the top three sectors hit by digital accessibility suits in June, with 27 lawsuits representing 17.5% of cases.

Continuing a trend begun last year, the vast majority of cases were filed in just two states: New York (109 cases, or 71%) and Florida (39 cases, or 25%). Although California is the number one state in the nation in terms of overall ADA lawsuits according to research by Seyfarth Shaw, only two digital accessibility cases were filed in federal court in California in June.

ADA Lawsuits in June 2018 Breakdown by State New York - 109 Florida - 39 Massachusetts - 3 California - 2 Mississippi - 1 110 of the 154 lawsuits (71.42%) were class action lawsuits.

The overwhelming preference of plaintiffs and plaintiff’s attorneys for New York and Florida can be largely attributed to earlier court decisions in those states that were decided in favor of the plaintiffs. The 2017 Winn-Dixie decision set off a wave of website accessibility litigation in Florida, while the Blick Art Supplies decision had the effect of shifting many lawsuits against standalone websites to New York because of the favorable precedent. While a small number of lawsuits continue to be filed in other states, plaintiffs—and plaintiff’s counsel—are largely opting to file suit in New York and Florida when they have a choice.

Also of note is the fact that a whopping 110 lawsuits (71%) were filed as class actions. Until recently, it was rare for ADA suits to be filed as class actions, in large part because the ADA does not allow recovery of damages. It is not clear yet what impact the trend of filing ADA suits as class actions will have, but it could increase the cost of litigating claims while also potentially offering greater finality in the settlement process by preventing members of the class from filing subsequent lawsuits.

Level Access will continue to track digital accessibility lawsuits trends and will provide periodic updates as they are available.

Our Methodology: Level Access uses commercially-available legal databases to search all federal court dockets for lawsuits alleging ADA claims. The results are then reviewed and cataloged by Level Access’s legal analysts, who then compile the data on a monthly basis. While all of the cases in the database have been verified to include a digital accessibility claim, the database may be missing other cases that did not come up in our search. The database also excludes cases filed in state courts, which may have the effect of undercounting litigation in states that have their own laws prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities (e.g., California, New York).

This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

3 Comments

  • Guy Hickling
    September 7, 2018

    Question – Presumably class actions “….preventing members of the class from filing subsequent lawsuits” means those class members will be prevented from filing against the same defendant company, but will not be prevented from launching a case against a quite different business? – Is this correct?

    • CP Hoffman
      September 7, 2018

      That’s right. Depending on the circumstances, members of the class who did not expressly opt out may not be able to bring their own separate lawsuit against the same defendant.

      This hasn’t been an issue so far, as the web accessibility class actions thus far have either been settled prior to class certification or were filed too recently for a class to have been certified, but it’s a potential issue down the line.

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