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website accessibility litigation

New York Website Accessibility Litigation Expands to State Court

New York Website Accessibility Litigation Expands to State Court

website accessibility litigation

New York is no stranger to website accessibility litigation.

Since 2017, the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York have been flooded with lawsuits filed by visually-impaired people targeting business websites for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal law that requires businesses to remove “access barriers” that hinder a disabled person’s access to the business’ goods and services. In 2022, New York became the nation’s leader in federal website accessibility litigation, bypassing all other states by a substantial margin. New York’s popularity as a forum is little surprise since New York district court judges have taken an expansive view of the ADA. Unlike the federal and state courts of California, for example, New York district court judges have largely found that the ADA extends to online-only businesses and that places of public accommodation under the ADA do not require a physical location.

Despite this general openness to website accessibility claims, plaintiffs suing in New York federal courts must satisfy stringent pleading requirements. No longer are the cut-and-paste and fill-in-the-blank pleadings that have been pervasive in the website accessibility area sufficient. To satisfy standing in ADA website cases, New York plaintiffs must allege facts in detail, including when they attempted to access to the website, what they were attempting to do on the website, the specific barriers that prevented them from gaining access, and how they intend to use the website in the future.

Of course, filing in state court is one way to avoid these federal pleading requirements, so as New York federal courts have required more from plaintiffs at the pleadings stage, there has been an uptick in state court website accessibility litigation. For example, Mizrahi Kroub LLP, one of most active plaintiff-side attorneys in this website accessibility litigation, has shifted focus to state court litigation, particularly in the Kings, Bronx, Queens, and New York County Supreme Courts.

Since late 2022, Edward Kroub and William Downes, attorneys at Mizrahi Kroub LLP, have filed more than 200 lawsuits on behalf multiple plaintiffs, including Ana Chalas, Cristian Sanchez, Daysi Hernandez, Jose Zarzuela, Joyce Carrico, Juan Batista, Juan Santana, Mairoby Hernandez, Maricela Donet, Omar Rodriguez, Rafael Cordero, Ramon Fontanez, Ramon Jaquez, Richard Mejia, Roberta Feliz, Thomas Genwright, Vanessa Jimenez, Waleska Pena, Yugely Nunez.

The Mizrahi Kroub LLP state court lawsuits do not allege violation of the ADA, but instead allege violations of the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), and the New York State Civil Rights Law (NYSCRL). The NYSHRL prohibits discrimination based on disability, among other things, and requires businesses to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. The NYCHRL extends this protection to individuals in New York City and prohibits discrimination based on disability, among other things, in public accommodations. The NYSCRL similarly prohibits discrimination based on disability and other protected characteristics.

While it is impossible to avoid getting targeted by a lawsuit, a business can minimize the risk and achieve the best possible position to defend itself against a web accessibility claim by taking these steps:
– Conducting an ADA compliance audit of its website and digital content.
– Engaging a vendor to help bring its website into compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1
– Locating counsel to assist with any ADA demand letters or complaints.

Adam Michaels and other lawyers at HBA have represented and continue to represent many defendants in website accessibility lawsuits and have advised clients on best practices to protect retail websites from litigation exposure.