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Website Accessibility Update: Fixing the Problem Equals “Case Dismissed”

In good news for San Diego businesses facing lawsuits about website accessibility, at least one court has recently dismissed a case because corrective actions were completed. As we have discussed before, blind and deaf users of internet websites have filed numerous lawsuits alleging that various websites are inaccessible, in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Here in the Golden State, disabled patrons of the web have also sued under various California statutes. Recently, a federal court dismissed a web-accessibility lawsuit on the ground of mootness. See Diaz v. The Kroger Co., Case No. 18-cv-07953 (US Dist. S. D.N.Y., June 4, 2019).

The Kroger Co. (“Kroger”) is a grocery store chain located mainly in the Midwest. Kroger’s headquarters are in Cincinnati. Kroger has many so-called “brick and mortar” locations around the Midwest, but no stores located in New York State. Kroger operates the website, from which consumers can make purchases for delivery and receive information and download coupons.

Kroger was sued in 2018 by Edwin Diaz who is blind. Diaz alleged that Kroger’s website denies him equal access in violation of the ADA. Websites can be made accessible for the blind through the embedding of software that, essentially, converts text into sound. The disabled user has software loaded on his or her computer, but for this software to function, the information on a website must be capable of being converted and, importantly, photos, images, and graphics must be coded so that they can be rendered into audible words.

At the time that Diaz brought his lawsuit, Kroger was in the process of making its website accessible to the blind and deaf. That process was completed several months after Diaz filed. As such, lawyers for Kroger filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds of “mootness.” “Mootness” is a legal doctrine that holds that lawsuits are to be dismissed if the controversy is resolved or if something has happened that makes it impossible for the court to provide any relief to the person suing. As a simple example, in a case where a plaintiff sues for an order requiring the other party to sell a particular house and property, the case would be moot if there were a landslide and the house and the whole property slid into the ocean. There is no longer a house or land to sell so the court cannot provide any relief for the plaintiff.

With respect to Kroger, they fixed the accessibility problem with their website and sought dismissal based on mootness. The court granted the motion. Importantly, Kroger had completed the changes and updates to their website. A number of courts have refused to dismiss on the grounds of mootness where the changes and updates were pending or “in the future.”

Call San Diego Corporate Law Today

For more information, call corporate attorney Michael Leonard, Esq., of San Diego Corporate Law. Mr. Leonard’s law practice is focused on business, transactional, and corporate matters and he proudly provides legal services to business owners in San Diego and the surrounding communities. Call Mr. Leonard at (858) 483-9200 or contact him via email. Like us on Facebook.

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