Great news for advocates of digital inclusion for people with disabilities! Today the United States Supreme Court rejected Domino’s Pizza’s efforts to overturn the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court opinion in the Domino’s web and mobile accessibility case.
That appeals court opinion said that disabled people can bring claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act if certain websites or mobile applications are not accessible. Domino’s efforts to gut the ADA and get this opinion overruled failed.
The case of Domino’s Pizza, LLC v. Robles, Guillermo, Case number 18-1539 is on the Supreme Court’s October 7, 2019 list of cases under the title “CERTIORARI DENIED.”
Cert Denied, as it is referred to by lawyers, means the Court will not even consider the case. No reasoning, no ruling one way or the other, and we don’t know if any justices disagreed.
All we know is that the highest court in the United States will not rule (at least in the Domino’s case) on website or mobile accessibility lawsuits under the ADA. And that the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in favor of ADA coverage of websites and mobile apps remains good law. Whew!!
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Digital accessibility in the legal space lives to see another day
The US Supreme Court’s action today means that the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Domino’s case is good law. That ruling held that the case against Domino’s Pizza under the ADA based on its inaccessible website and mobile application could remain in court.
The Ninth Circuit held that Title III of the ADA covers both mobile applications and websites with a connection (nexus) to a physical place of public accommodation. (The court did not say that websites not connected were not covered by the ADA, it just did not decide that issue.) In footnote 6 it wrote: “We need not decide whether the ADA covers the websites or apps of a physical place of public accommodation where their inaccessibility does not impede access to the goods and services of a physical location.”
Domino’s could have made its website accessible after that ruling, but instead chose to keep fighting, and asked the US Supreme Court to overrule the Ninth Circuit. Today the Supreme Court declined Domino’s request.
I wrote a post about the Ninth Circuit opinion in the Domino’s case back in January, 2019 when the opinion came out. In the post I pulled out some of my favorite quotes from the opinion, including this one. This quote and others are still good law after the US Supreme Court’s announcement today:
Moreover, since it announced its position in 1996, DOJ has “repeatedly affirmed the application of [T]itle III to Web sites of public accommodations.” 75 Fed. Reg. 43460-01, 43464 (July 26, 2010). Thus, at least since 1996, Domino’s has been on notice that its online offerings must effectively communicate with its disabled customers and facilitate “full and equal enjoyment” of Domino’s goods and services.
And in any case, our precedent is clear that, “as a general matter, the lack of specific regulations cannot eliminate a statutory obligation.” Ninth Circuit Opinion in Domino’s Pizza case.
What’s Next for the Domino’s Case?
My post about the Domino’s Ninth Circuit opinion was titled “Big Win for Web Accessibility in Domino’s Pizza case,” and it was. (For mobile accessibility too.) But even now, the case is not over.
The Ninth Circuit opinion said the case could stay in court; that a disabled person could pursue a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act for web and mobile accessibility. The U.S. Supreme Court left that opinion alone.
But the blind plaintiff has not won the Domino’s case yet. Now that the Supreme Court’s (in)action means the case can stay in court, it goes back to the Federal District Court in California for further proceedings.
One of two things can happen: the parties can keep fighting, or the parties can settle. It’s not hard to guess what I think should happen.
Domino’s could have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by removing barriers on its website and settling the case. Company costs have only gone up in choosing to fight. Although nothing on LFLegal.com is legal advice (including this post) I’d go so far as to say that Domino’s got bad advice from whatever lawyer has been advising the company to take this route.