Plaintiffs Law Firms: Block & Leviton + NYE, Stirling, Hale, Miller & Sweet – ADA Website Lawsuits

Sharing the split screen with me is a complaint that was filed today, April 25th, 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. So, this is the first circuit and typically when we’re looking at website accessibility litigation, it involves the Second Circuit, New York, California, the Ninth Circuit, or Florida, the Eleventh Circuit. So, this is already slightly distinct.

The signing law firms are two. There’s Jason Leviton from Block & Leviton, and then there’s Benjamin Sweet and Jonathan Miller from NYE., Sterling, Hale, Miller, and Sweet. And now, I’m scrolling up to the actual complaint claims, and one thing that we can note right away is that this is very, very specific. You can tell this is not a templated claims. These aren’t templated claims. These are very specific, and I’m going to read through a few of the claims.

First, while the search field on the collections page is properly announced, the focus then skips both the filter and sort buttons without proper announcements and moves to the first product. Without the filter and sort buttons being properly announced, the screen reader user is unaware of their presence and is unable to narrow the results based on the desired criteria. So, what this alleged claim is getting at is that you cannot navigate by keyboard to the different interactive elements, and this is something that’s very important. So, you want to make sure that any interactive element on your website, whether it be a button, a leak, a checkbox, etc., you’re able to navigate by keyboard only to those different interactive elements. And if you can’t, then that presents an accessibility issue.

So, that’s what this is getting at, but then the other part of this is making sure that your interactive elements are described, and they’re described sufficiently. So, the claims actually get to that in the next section. So, scrolling down, we can see that there are several screenshots where they enclose in red the different elements that they want to bring attention to. Letter B says, when the product is swiped by a screen reader user, the image is announced with the first swipe and the product name with the second swipe. Unfortunately, the three product color option buttons do not receive focus and are therefore not properly announced. And then they say, and the screenshots are obviously from a mobile device, and then they say that they mentioned voiceover, so we know it’s an iPhone.

But this is getting very, very specific, and this second claim really gets at what the first one is getting at is, again, the interactive elements do not receive focus. So, you cannot fully navigate by keyboard to all of the different interactive elements. And then I’m going to scroll through some screenshots. And then letter C says, the screen reader user encounters several barriers when reviewing the product page, including unlabeled buttons and links. For example, when a mobile screen reader user swipes the wish list button, only button is announced, and after a few seconds, possibly cart is announced. When a user swipes to the cart button, only the number of items in the cart receives focus and is announced as one link. Additionally, the social media buttons at the footer of the page all have the same generic label.

So, this is why it’s so important to be descriptive. You can see here the plaintiff’s law firm is focusing in on the lack of labels. Sometimes the labels are present, but merely having a label is not sufficient. You need to make sure that there is a concise description for that label so that someone can tell what function and or name that different interactive elements have. And so, one link, for example, will not suffice as alleged here. I don’t know if that’s the case, but that’s what they are alleging.

And then scrolling down, we see more screenshots. So, again, they’re very, very specific. And I think this is a trend that will continue, not to say that this is new for Block and Leviton and the other law firm, but I think we will see more plaintiff’s law firms be more specific and include screenshots. So, I’m scrolling down. There are several screenshots here. I think I just went through four or five.

And it says, the next paragraph, it says these barriers and others deny plaintiff full and equal access to all the services, et cetera. So, notice it says these barriers and others. So, this means these claims that are in this complaint are non-exhaustive of all of the accessibility issues. And it says still plaintiff intends to attempt to access the platform in the future to buy, to purchase the products and services the platform offers or to test the digital platform for compliance with the ADA. I think that is the more likely of the scenarios.

But in either case, I wanted to go through this complaint. I have seen Block and Leviton and I have seen, what’s the, it’s a long, it’s a long law firm name, NYE, Sterling, Hale, Miller and Sweet. I’ve seen these names come up before, but they’re not, I don’t see as many complaints from them as I do the other law firms that I’ve covered in my plaintiff’s law firms series of videos. But I wanted to go through this one because it is unique. First of all, we see that litigation in the first circuit. Also, we see very specific claims that we can, with this specific level of specificity, we can go in and actually check our website and see are these claims, are these claims actually true? Do they create these barriers to access that the plaintiffs are alleging?

So there’s actually a level of specificity in here that we would like to see. It’s actually somewhat helpful when the claims are actually made clear and then there’s also screenshots to supplement the claims. So this one is different, but the accessibility issues come back to the same accessibility issues that are being claimed over and over again.

So in this case, we have keyboard navigability and then making sure that there’s a focus indicator going right along with that so that we can, you know, in this instance, the focus indicator wouldn’t be as paramount. But we want to make sure that that focus indicator is there so that we can make sure that we go to these different interactive elements that visibly we can see that they are receiving focus. But then also beyond keyboard navigability and making sure the interactive elements receive focus as someone navigates through the website. We also want to make sure that there is not only a label, but a descriptive label because that’s really what the claims in this complaint come down to.

And those accessibility issues are included in my ADA Compliance Course where I go through the most commonly claimed accessibility issues in litigation. And really I provide a step-by-step instructions for website owners to give to their web teams so that they can know exactly what accessibility issues are most commonly claimed in litigation and go through the website and take care of those claims.

This complaint was obviously very, very specific, but again, these specific claims, they all come from very, you know, general accessibility issues that we can tether to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and we know exactly which success criteria are applicable. And in this case, we are looking at keyboard navigability and having descriptive labels and then also making sure the applicable name, state, role, or value are there for the different interactive elements.