Crain’s New York Business ran an article about a letter signed by 103 members of Congress at the end of June calling on the Department of Justice to stem the tide of lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act over alleged inaccessibility to websites by the hearing and visually impaired. The article mentions a report released earlier this year on the issue by LRANY:
Over the years, Manhattan attorney Jeffrey Gottlieb reckons he has brought more than 100 lawsuits against companies that haven’t made their websites usable by the blind. Although federal law prohibits plaintiffs from collecting large amounts of damages, the cases are so irksome to the business community that Congress is asking the Trump administration to crack down on them.
“The absence of statutory, regulatory or other controlling language on this issue only fuels the proliferation of these suits,” more than 100 members of Congress wrote in a June 20 letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Scores of New York companies, including Bulgari, Fairway Market and Zabar’s, have been sued for operating websites that allegedly violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. That law was signed by George H. W. Bush in 1990 and led businesses to spend big sums installing wheelchair ramps and clearing impediments that prevented disabled people from entering stores and offices. But many companies never got around to making it possible for the blind to use their websites—a big issue in this era of online commerce.
Gottlieb and his ilk have made New York’s federal courts a hotbed for ADA website litigation, with 335 suits filed last year, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw, or more than 40% of all cases. The cases usually are resolved quickly out of court, and, according to a report earlier this year by the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, it costs on average $16,000 to settle.
The vast majority of that money is paid to lawyers for services rendered because New York law bars plaintiffs from collecting more than $500 in damages. Most states don’t allow for any financial damages in these cases.