District Court Dismisses ADA Title III Website Class Action Lawsuit
By: Alisa N. Carr, Esq.
On March 28, 2019, Judge Loretta A. Preska, Senior United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, entered an Order dismissing a class action lawsuit filed against Apple, Inc. by a legally blind plaintiff who alleged she could not access Apple’s website. Granting Apple’s Motion to Dismiss for lack of standing, the Court discussed the Plaintiff’s obligation to establish the elements of standing; (1) a concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent injury-in-fact, (2) that is traceable to defendant’s conduct, and; (3) likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.”[i]
The Court summarized that the Complaint “boils down to Plaintiff’s allegation that general and systematic barriers on Defendant’s website prevented her both from accessing goods and services on the website, as well as accessing good and services in Defendant’s physical stores.”
In granting Apple’s Motion to Dismiss, the Court concluded that the purported injuries lacked all requisite specificity. While Plaintiff pleaded that she could not access information about store location and hours, browse and purchase electronics or make service appointments online, Plaintiff did not allege what section of the website she tried to access; instead, she asserted that she was “unable to independently determine what information is contained within the website.” Plaintiff asserted that because disabled plaintiffs are not always required to actually enter a physical store that is inaccessible, it is logical that the plaintiff did not need to detail the specific circumstances of her visit to the inaccessible website.
Concluding that Apple “is not selling an obscure product from a hidden bunker,” the Court rejected Plaintiff’s arguments. If Plaintiff wanted one of Defendant’s products or services at a particular date but was frustrated by the barriers, she needed to point to something more specific than what was provided in the Complaint. For example, if she could not make a service appointment, she could have alleged that she actually owned an Apple device that needed services; “device servicing is generally contingent on device ownership or possession.” Entering an Order dismissing the Complaint, the Court wrote: “There is nothing inherently wrong with filing duplicative lawsuits against multiple defendants if the harms to be remedied do exist and are indeed identical. But those who live by the photocopier shall die by the photocopier. By failing specifically to assert any concrete injury, Plaintiff’s claims fail as a matter of law.”
While this ruling does not prevent future ADA Title III website litigation, it does offer a helpful discussion of standing and the requirement that a plaintiff detail the inaccessible features of a website with specificity or risk dismissal of the Complaint.
Alisa N. Carr is a Partner in Leech Tishman’s Litigation, Real Estate and Energy Practice Groups. She focuses her practice on litigation, with an emphasis on ADA Title III and FHA defense. Alisa is based in the Pittsburgh office and can be reached at 412.261.1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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[i] Mendez, v. Apple, Inc., Civil Action No. 18-cv-07550 (S.D.N.Y March 28, 2019).