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Cyber Accessibility Is the New Frontier for ADA Lawsuits

Source: James Butler, Jr., JMBM/MONDAQ

Posted on 12 Jun 2012 by Neilson

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Cyber accessibility/ADAHow many lawsuits or claims have been filed by private plaintiffs and the Department of Justice (DOJ) against property owners under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA?

The latest figures show that more than 15,500 such ADA lawsuits or claims have been filed. And the pace is about to pick up in a big way.

My partner Marty Orlick, who heads Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, LLP's (JMBM) ADA compliance and defense team, has defended more than 500 ADA claims all over the country. Marty warns that we may be about to see a tidal wave of Cyber Accessibility claims -- lawsuits about reservation systems, hotel websites and related communications facilities.

Why could there be a big slug of these ADA lawsuits over websites? Marty says that there are several reasons:

    1.    First, these lawsuits will be very easy for plaintiffs to work up. The plaintiffs do not need any site inspection, experts or research. They can just surf the web from the convenience of their homes or offices. Marty says the "surf by" complaints could dwarf the "drive by" ADA lawsuits that looked for missing accessible parking spaces and other readily visible shortcomings.
    2.    Second, some owners and operators have not been paying enough attention to this issue. They have had their attention elsewhere, such as on operating fundamentals, labor costs and ADA pool lift requirements.
    3.    Both the DOJ and private plaintiffs have had tremendous success with website accessibility lawsuits under the ADA, and they are growing impatient for compliance.
    4.    In addition, a lack of clear industry standards and misinformed marketing staff have lulled some into thinking they are already in compliance when that is not so.
    5.    Finally, some owners and operators have not recognized ADA compliance for the high priority it demands. They have not appreciated how costly ADA litigation and defense can be, and how compliance is so much cheaper than defense.