Website ADA compliance cases spike; ruling seen as 'not a good sign' for defendants

By Carrie Salls | Oct 5, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Pennsylvania is one of three states, along with New York and California, where Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits filed in connection with allegedly inaccessible websites have steadily increased.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP compiled data revealing that those three states are the jurisdictions that have seen 85 percent of the website-related ADA cases filed through Sept. 21, although those numbers could change before the end of the year. Pennsylvania, New York and California also have had the largest number of law firms filing these suits.


Minh Vu of Seyfarth Shaw said most of the cases filed in Pennsylvania have been filed in the federal court in Pittsburgh. She said the popularity of these cases in Pennsylvania is easily explained.


“The law firm that is handling these cases is located in Pennsylvania,” Vu told the Pennsylvania Record.


Vu said Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kilpela is the firm filing the ADA website lawsuits. Specifically, Seyfarth Shaw’s data reveals that Carlson Lynch had filed 43 percent of the suits through Sept. 21, followed by Lee Litigation Group with 28 percent and Newport Trial Group with 16 percent of the website accessibility cases.


Vu said there have been some significant decisions resulting from these cases, even if the cases may not be classified as big.


For example, she said Judge Arthur J. Schwab in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania denied a motion to dismiss filed by Huntington Bank in a website accessibility lawsuit earlier this year with no comment.


“Because all website accessibility lawsuits filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania seem to be assigned to Judge Schwab, this is not a good sign for the defendants in those cases,” Vu said.


In addition, Vu said a California state court ruled in March that a retailer had violated the ADA and California non-discrimination statutes by having an inaccessible retail site and ordered the retailer to make its website accessible.


“This is the first website accessibility case we are aware of that was litigated to judgment,” she said. “Most cases settle well before that.”


Vu said in a Seyfarth Shaw blog that website accessibility lawsuits and threatened claims are growing in popularity for plaintiffs’ attorneys.


The plaintiffs in the ADA suits commonly allege that more disabled people are not able to access a business’s products or services as a result of non-compliant websites.


Seyfarth Shaw found that the number of lawsuits filed in federal court since the beginning of 2015 was 106 as of Sept. 21, with 63 percent of those suits being filed against retailers, 16 percent against restaurants and 9 percent against hospitality companies. Other industries hit by ADA-related website lawsuits included academic, dating services, entertainment, financial, gaming, insurance, medical, personal services, sports and travel operations.


In addition to filing lawsuits, many firms have sent demand letters to business en masse, raising allegations of inaccessible websites on behalf of unidentified disabled clients.


Vu said in the blog that there have been no laws proposed by the U.S. Department of Justice in connection with website accommodations for disabled consumers.

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