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The scales of justice

Storefront symbol stating Title IIIIn April, a federal judge dismissed a digital accessibility lawsuit against New Peoples Bank (NPB). The case, Carroll v. New Peoples Bank, was noteworthy for what it says about when individuals with disabilities can bring lawsuits, as well as when businesses can avoid litigation.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this case is that the judge decided the plaintiff lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. The judge noted that the closest branch of NPB was 300 miles from the plaintiff, making that the plaintiff’s stated intent of visiting NPB’s physical locations implausible. This was also an argument that NPB did not raise in its written motion to dismiss, though they may have brought it up in oral arguments.

Level Access reached out to some of our friends in the legal community to see what they had to say about the case.

According to Teresa Jakubowski, Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, “In many of the website accessibility cases filed, particularly by plaintiffs who file numerous cases, there is no credible claim that the plaintiff ever intends to legitimately use the website at issue (other than for the purpose of bringing a suit) or ever has been or intends to be a customer of the entity being sued. In this case, the court concluded plaintiffs’ allegations regarding standing were implausible, and also reinforced that the ADA does not eviscerate the requirement of a plaintiff to establish standing.”

Robert L. Duston, Partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, told us, “The Court looked to prior precedents regarding the likelihood of future injury. The Court went on to conclude that that there was no actual ‘injury in fact’ from the inability to use this website, i.e. no denial of access to goods or services. This is the most recent example of federal courts interpreting the Supreme Court’s Spokeo decision to find that more is required than just an alleged statutory violation.”

In addition, the judge dismissed the case since NPB made “voluntary upgrades” to their site after the suit was filed. The allegation that NPB’s website was inaccessible was rendered moot, since it was now accessible.

Jakubowski also found NPB’s subsequent remediation of their website interesting.

“Although the court’s opinion focused principally upon standing, it also concluded that the plaintiff’s claims were moot given the defendant had voluntary remediated the website. Plaintiff’s counsel typically assert that website accessibility claims can never be moot because websites frequently change and there is no guarantee a defendant will not ‘revert’ to using an accessible website. While some courts seem inclined to agree, the court in Carroll did not,” Jakubowski said.

Though we have yet to see whether other judges will find the opinion in Carroll persuasive, it does suggest that plaintiffs who are not potential users of an entity’s website may not have standing to bring suit. In addition, it shows that, at least in this case, the defendant took the right step by remediating their website after being sued.

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