California: Plaintiffs Can’t Win Website Accessibility Lawsuits Against Online-Only Businesses

In a previous video I stated that website accessibility litigation would decline in 2023.

And I touched upon a California State court decision but I didn’t explain it.

So this California State court decision, the effect of it is that online only businesses can no longer be successfully sued in California whether it be state court or federal court.

So this happened in the California Court of Appeals and in this case the court held that a public accommodation- a website is not a public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And importantly this this holding agrees with what the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held previously.

And so what this does is this shuts out a claim under the ADA in both state court and federal court.

So we’ve eliminated these two avenues in California.

But we’re not done yet because in California there’s a a state law called the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, a claim can be brought for intentional discrimination.

But California Court of Appeals held that inaccessible websites do not equal intentional discrimination under the Unruh Act.

And finally the California Supreme Court has declined to review this decision which means it stays intact.

So this is a monumental decision in California and the effect is is that if you own an online business, cannot be successfully sued in California for a lack of accessibility.

And this has been- this is really a common sense ruling and it reigns in this out of control liberal construction of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And stemming from there then we see these state court- state laws being applied.

And this brings common sense and what the court said here was, they understood that the DOJ’s unofficial stance was that the ADA does apply to websites but the court said the DOJ has had over a decade to do something about it and it’s failed.

And the court also said that, similarly Congress has had ample opportunity to address this and they failed.

And so with California being the #1 hub for litigation, now plaintiffs lawyers are backed into a corner of only going after against businesses, entities that have a physical structure and a website connected to that physical structure.

So that’s just going I think that’s going to make it more difficult and thereby we’re going to see less litigation in the most litigious state for website accessibility in the US.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean that we won’t see litigation brought against online businesses online-only businesses elsewhere it just means that in California that’s been flattened.