As website accessibility lawsuits continue to surge, places of public accommodation oftentimes battle multiple lawsuits filed by different plaintiffs represented by different attorneys. Even after entering into private settlements, which include detailed website remediation plans, defendants may continue to be the target of these lawsuits by copycat plaintiffs. The Eleventh Circuit recently addressed this dynamic head-on, and held that a private settlement entered into by Hooters and a first-filed plaintiff did not moot a nearly identical, later-filed website accessibility lawsuit by a different plaintiff. This case underscores the importance of quickly remediating website accessibility issues, as well as taking care to draft settlement agreements to maximize arguments that future lawsuits are barred.
The DOJ announced last November that it again was delaying the target date for publishing its proposed website regulations for state and local governments to December 2014, and its proposed website regulations for public accommodations until June 2015. Next, without further comment, the DOJ failed to make its December 2014 deadline for its state and local government regulations. Given that the state and local government regulations deadline was missed, and that the DOJ has not yet submitted its public accommodations regulations to the federal Office of Management and Budget for required review and approval, it is virtually certain that the June 2015 deadline for public accommodations regulations will be missed as well. Bottom line – affected businesses won’t see the DOJ’s new website accessibility regulations anytime soon.
When it comes to disabled access and the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s not just ramps and restrooms anymore. Now plaintiffs, the U.S. Department of Justice and disability rights groups are looking beyond brick-and-mortar issues and are seeking accessibility to company websites, particularly those websites where business is transacted.