July 3, 2017
Authored by: BCLP, Merrit Jones, Heather Goldman, Rodney Page, Steven Stimell, Jennifer Dempsey and William Wortel
Another website accessibility decision against a retailer, this time involving Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. in the Central District of California, highlights the uncertainty of the law and of litigating such cases while courts continue to reach different conclusions.
In Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Case No. 2:17-cv-01131-JFW-SK (C.D. Cal. June 15, 2017), the district court denied Hobby Lobby’s motion to dismiss and held that the retailer’s website constitutes a “public accommodation” under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In so holding, the court noted that the website allows consumers to purchase products, search for store locations, view special pricing offers, obtain coupons, and purchase gift cards.
The court also relied on Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regulations requiring public accommodations to use auxiliary aids and services to “communicate effectively” with disabled customers.
This decision was issued only two days after a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida handed down a trial verdict against retailer Winn-Dixie. As we recently reported in a blog post and alert, Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., No. 16-cv-23020, Dkt. No. 63 (S.D. Fla. June 13, 2017) was the first website accessibility case to go to trial. In that case, the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.0 were adopted as part of the injunctive terms of the decision.
The Hobby Lobby court’s decision is in stark contrast with another recent website accessibility decision from the Northern District of California, which dismissed a website accessibility action under the “primary jurisdiction”