Pennsylvania Record

Monday, February 24, 2020

Blind man suing Philly restaurant 100 miles from his house loses case over its website


By Charmaine Little | Sep 26, 2018


PHILADELPHIA - On Sept. 17, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania determined a blind man didn’t provide enough evidence that Sam’s Oyster House discriminated against him through its website.

The court dismissed Ricardo Walker’s case against Sam’s Oyster House in which he claimed the restaurant violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it “failed to make its website accessible to blind people,” according to the opinion. 

Sam’s Oyster House, located in Philadelphia, filed the motion to dismiss and pointed out Walker, who lives in Queens, New York, never gave an actual injury he suffered as a result of Sam’s Oyster House allegedly failing to make its website accessible to the blind. 

The court agreed and granted the motion without prejudice.

The court first looked at Walker’s claim that the restaurant’s website is a place of accommodation under the ADA. The ADA states, that “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation."

Still, the court disagreed and said Sam’s Oyster House’s website, or any site for that matter, isn’t a “public place of accommodation.”

When it came to his next argument under Article III, the court determined Walker failed to establish an injury. “[He] can only satisfy the injury in fact element with discrimination that is ‘concrete and particularized’ and ‘actual or imminent,’” the court stated. 

The court used two different methods to determine injury: intent to return and deterrent effect doctrine. Concerning intent to return, the court said Walker never established that he actually had a desire to go to the restaurant, let alone the intentions (in fact, he lives more than 100 miles away from the restaurant). The court reiterated the “place of public accommodation” only comes into play when it concerns the actual restaurant, not the website.

The court had a similar perspective when it came to the deterrent effect doctrine. It pointed out Walker failed to mention that the alleged discrimination deterred him from visiting the physical restaurant.

In his lawsuit on behalf of himself and others in his situation, Walker said the restaurant’s website, gives details concerning the restaurant such as the menu, its location, hours, and sells gift cards to the restaurant. 

Walker said because of his visual impairment, he wasn’t able to access the website appropriately due to Sam Oyster House’s choice to use a more visual friendly template. He added there is technology available that provides descriptive links and special forms that would help those like him peruse the site.  The court dismissed the case without prejudice and gave Walker the chance to file an amended complaint within 21 days.

Judge Jan E. DuBois ruled on the case.

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