In April, a federal judge in Virginia has found that a bank could not be sued for an inaccessible website under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) where it voluntarily remediated the site to make it accessible. Judge James P. Jones of the Western District of Virginia granted New Peoples Bank’s motion to dismiss, holding that the case was moot and that Carroll lacked standing to bring suit because he did not have a personal interest in the litigation.The case, Carroll v. New Peoples Bank, Inc., was filed in November 2017 by Keith Carroll, who is permanently blind and uses screen reader software to access the internet.
In his complaint, Carroll alleged that New Peoples Bank’s website was inaccessible because it failed to provide alternative text for images, had forms without properly labelled fields, and used redundant links to the same URL address, creating repetition for keyboard and screen reader users.
After receiving a demand letter from Carroll, New Peoples Bank voluntarily retained a third-party firm to improve the website’s accessibility. Carroll was informed prior to his filing suit.
In mid-February, New Peoples Bank filed a motion to dismiss Carroll’s suit on the grounds that websites are not covered by the ADA, that it complied with the ADA by offering a toll-free telephone line as an alternative to its website, and that Carroll’s suit was moot because the website had been made accessible.
Because New Peoples Bank had voluntarily remediated its website and there was no reason to believe it would revert to its old, inaccessible website, Judge Jones found Carroll’s claim was moot. Citing an earlier decision from the Western District of Virginia, Judge Jones noted, “When a defendant remedies an alleged violation of the ADA and the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur, the plaintiff’s case becomes moot and must be dismissed.”
Judge Jones also held that Carroll lacked standing to bring the suit in the first place, noting that he lives in Fairfax County, Virginia, approximately 300 miles from the nearest New Peoples Bank branch. “Although Carroll could certainly visit NPB’s website at any point in time from the comfort of his home, it seems implausible that he would travel hundreds of miles now or in the future to the visit the physical locations of the bank,” Judge Jones found.
Interestingly, the standing issue was not directly raised by New Peoples Bank in its motion to dismiss.
Because the case was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, Judge Jones did not reach the other questions of whether websites were covered by the ADA or whether an accessible toll-free telephone line could serve as a permissible alternative to an inaccessible website.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.