Does Your Web site Set off Legal responsibility in California? | Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC
Now may be the time to check your website to make sure it is accessible to blind or partially sighted visitors. A recent case in California, coupled with ADA requirements, makes it easy for ignorant businesses with an online presence to go to California state court even if they don’t have offices or employees in California. Businesses could suffer significant financial damage, not to mention serious damage to their reputation and loss of customers.
In Thurston v Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC, plaintiff, a blind California resident, sued a Georgia company for failing to provide full and equal access to the company’s website in violation of California’s Disability Discrimination Act.
UCRA is a relatively simple law that has a huge impact on businesses with websites. Their policy is as follows:
All persons in the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and regardless of gender, race, color, religion, race, national origin, disability, health status, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status are entitled to the complete and equal accommodation, benefits, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of any kind.
UCRA further states that any violation of the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a violation of UCRA. Therefore, the Ninth Circle’s recognition that a website can be a place of public accommodation in Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC has dire consequences for out-of-state defendants when combined with Thurston Court involvement. UCRA allows a plaintiff to recover at least $ 4,000 in actual damage, which can be tripled in certain cases. Worse, the defendant has to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees. Defending a website accessibility claim becomes an expensive proposition, especially after a company or individual considers the cost of a lawyer along with legal remedies. These cases are increasing because lawyers view these claims as a lucrative home industry; The attorneys and potential plaintiffs are actively looking for non-compliant websites. For example, the Thurston plaintiff identified himself as one of these “testers”.
The best way to deal with these claims is to avoid them altogether. Many web developers offer compliance audits and accessibility solutions that help blind and visually impaired users successfully navigate a company’s website. While lawmakers and government agencies have been painfully silent about what action a company can take to isolate it from liability, the “gold standard” for Internet accessibility is widely viewed as the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG).
If you are the recipient of a site accessibility lawsuit or letter threatening such a lawsuit, even if you are from another state (such as California), don’t ignore it. Contact an attorney immediately to protect your rights. Despite the significant obstacles faced by a defendant affected by such a lawsuit, the attorney can help you control and successfully resolve these types of claims.