Website Accessibility Alert: Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Issues Important Split Decision in Winn-Dixie Website Action
April 8, 2021
Authored by: Heather Goldman, Merrit Jones and Steven Stimell
Businesses with an online presence should take note that the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has held—in a split decision—that websites are not places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
On Wednesday, April 7, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit issued its much-awaited decision in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. —holding that “websites are not a place of public accommodation under Title III” of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and that the plaintiff’s inability to access Winn-Dixie’s website was not a violation of Title III, vacating the decision of the district court, and remanding the case for further proceedings.
As we previously reported, Gil was the first website accessibility case to go to trial. After a bench trial, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida held that Winn-Dixie had violated Title III of the ADA because its website was inaccessible to the visually impaired plaintiff. Despite the fact that Winn-Dixie does not conduct sales through its website, the district court found that the website was “heavily integrated” with the physical store locations since customers could use the website to access digital coupons, find store locations, and refill prescriptions through the website.
The appeal presented three questions: (1) whether the plaintiff had standing to bring the case; (2) whether websites are places of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA; and (3) whether the district court erred in its verdict and judgment. Opinion at 9. In addressing the