WASHINGTON–The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from Domino’s Pizza and has left to stand a lower court decision that Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements also apply to websites and mobile applications.
The decision has significant ramifications for credit unions, which have been hit by a wave of lawsuits alleging their websites violate the ADA. Credit unions and their trade groups had been hopeful for a Supreme Court decision in their favor, especially as other lower courts have issued rulings dismissing similar ADA lawsuits.
In some cases, dismissals of such lawsuits against credit unions were the result of rulings the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, as they were not members. The Supreme Court ruling did not address the standing issue.
For credit unions, one outcome is likely to be a renewed effort to have Congress and the Justice Department clarify or change the law.
The Supreme Court decision involved a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that had held ADA liability does not violate the 14th Amendment, Domino's had received fair notice that its website and app must comply with ADA, while private industry standards could be an equitable remedy, the trial court will have to determine if the website is compliant, noted NAFCU in its analysis of the ruling.
CUNA, NAFCU, state leagues, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others have argued that while they support the ADA, the law was written prior to the advent of the Internet and online service delivery and applies only to physical locations, not virtual access points. But the Ninth Circuit—and now the Supreme Court—disagreed.
The Supreme Court decision means it’s likely more blind people will sue retailers if their websites are not accessible.
The lawsuit against Domino’s was originally filed by Guillermo Robles, who is blind, in Los Angeles three years ago. Robles said he had been unable to order a pizza online because the Domino’s website lacked the software that would allow him to communicate, and in his lawsuit he pointed to the ADA, which guarantees to persons with a disability “full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services ... of any place of public accommodations.”
“The ADA mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino’s, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind,” the Ninth Circuit ruled.
The Ninth Circuit has now sent the case back to a judge in Los Angeles to decide whether Robles suffered discrimination.
Legal analysts reminded that the Supreme Court decision does not mean the highest court might not later take up the issue later, given that lower courts have been divided.
"Although Domino’s is disappointed that the Supreme Court will not review this case, we look forward to presenting our case at the trial court," Domino's said in a statement posted on its website. "We also remain steadfast in our belief in the need for federal standards for everyone to follow in making their websites and mobile apps accessible."