Recently, NJCJI President, Anthony Anastasio, appeared in the New Jersey Law Journal with a statement about the rising number of suits brought against businesses for alleged violations of the Americans With Disability Act (“ADA”). Over the last several years, visually impaired plaintiffs have filed an increasing number of ADA suits alleging that websites are not accessible to users who employ screen reading software to access sites.
Many of these suits have been quickly settled under confidential terms, with the named plaintiffs receiving a nominal cut of the ultimate award. The growing number of ADA accessibility suits is driven in part by the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) failure to issue technical standards and clear rules concerning how websites can become accessible for visually impaired users. So far, the DOJ has merely issued guidelines, which many have decried as “vague,” and which leave businesses with little actual guidance.
Although these ADA digital accessibility suits have flourished in states like California, Florida and New York, a growing number have been filed in New Jersey. For instance, one New Jersey plaintiffs’ attorney has filed roughly 60 such suits in 2023 alone, with many of these suits targeting large companies like American Airlines, Nike, and Burger King. Moreover, many of the lawsuits in New Jersey involve the same named plaintiff.
Anastasio weighed in on these emerging patterns in ADA litigation, observing that, “Website accessibility suits have been an ongoing problem for the business community. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have capitalized on the fact that the underlying law is so unclear to force nuisance value settlements by businesses of all sizes, from your local coffee shop to large corporations. In the aggregate, these settlements add up to big money.”