Website Accessibility Lawsuits Surge in 2018

Banking industry feels the onslaught and needs to mitigate risk.

By Brian E. Cole II Over the past year there has been a surge in the number of website disability access lawsuits being filed against businesses with consumer-facing websites in virtually every industry. The banking industry has been one of the industries hit the hardest, and these lawsuits are not going away any time soon. As such, it is important to understand the current requirements and law behind these lawsuits as well as the stepsthat can be taken to mitigate risk Website disability access lawsuits (web access lawsuits) allege that a consumer-facing website is discriminatory because it contains certain barriers making it not accessible to individuals with a visual, auditory, or other disability. The costs associated with these lawsuits can be significant both in defending and long-term remediation efforts to the website itself. Moreover, attorneys’ fees are recoverable under the ADA, and adding to the potential exposure is the minimum statutor0y penalties that are available under certain state non-discrimination laws, such as the Unruh Act. The number of web access lawsuits is surging from approximately 60 federal lawsuits filed in 2015 to over 800 in 2017. The numbers for 2018 already exceed 1,000. These figures, however, represent only a portion of the companies actually dealing with or being threatened with these lawsuits. Indeed, many of these matters are never filed as lawsuits since companies may settle or resolve the matter after receiving a demand letter but before a complaint is filed. Further, in certain states like California, these matters will be filed in the state court to avoid uncertain case law at the federal level, while seeking minimum statutory damages through non-discrimination laws.