By Tracy M. Evans, Esq., Associate, Saxon Gilmore & Carraway, P.A.

We recently reported on the website accessibility requirements under the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the rising trend in lawsuits alleging ADA violations against various companies and public entities for failing to maintain ADA compliant websites. In June, a lawsuit challenging a company’s website’s compliance with the ADA was the first of its kind to proceed to trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and resulted in a verdict against the company. In the case of Gil v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc., case number 1:16-cv-23020, the plaintiff, a visually impaired individual, sued Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. (“Winn-Dixie”), alleging the grocery store chain’s website was incompatible with standard screen readers and software necessary for the visually impaired to access the website. As a result, the plaintiff alleged he was denied full and equal enjoyment of the information and services offered to sighted customers.

In ruling in favor of the plaintiff after a 2-day non-jury trial, the court determined that the website was “heavily integrated” with Winn-Dixie’s physical stores and served as a “gateway” to those stores. Based on these findings, the court ruled that Title III of the ADA applied to the website, and Winn-Dixie was required to bring the website into ADA compliance.

The plaintiff was not awarded any damages, but the court determined he was entitled to attorney’s fees as the prevailing party. The determination of the amount of attorney’s fees is currently pending.

This case further highlights the importance of ensuring websites are updated and routinely reviewed for ADA compliance, whether the entity is covered under Title II or Title III of the ADA. Our prior article, which includes a discussion of Title II and Title III coverage and tips on how to ensure a website is accessible under the ADA, can be found here.

 

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