Another Big Win in the Domino’s Pizza Accessibility Saga

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This is an article about a judge’s decision in the Domino’s Pizza web access case. The judge ruled that Domino’s violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. It violated the law because its website was not fully accessible to a blind customer. The judge ordered Domino’s to fix the site. Domino’s also must pay $4,000.00 to the blind person who filed the lawsuit. The judge also ruled that Domino’s mobile app was covered by the ADA. But the judge did not have enough facts to decide who won that part of the case. This order is the next step after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2019 not to hear the case.

cheesy pizza

When the United States Supreme Court decided not to take up the Domino’s web accessibility case in October 2019, the case went back to the US federal district court in California. This week (twenty months later) the district court judge issued an important ruling in the case.

It was a big win for web accessibility.

[Earlier posts on LFLegal about Domino’s, listed below, can fill you in on the long and winding journey that led to this order.]

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Domino’s inaccessible website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and California law

In a Court Order dated June 23, 2021, Judge Jesus Bernal of the United States District Court of Central District Of California ruled for Guillermo Robles, the blind person who filed the case. Read the full June 23, 2021 Domino’s Federal Court Order

Among other things, the judge ruled as follows:

  • The ADA covers the Domino’s website because the website “facilitate[s] access to the goods and services” of Domino’s Pizza stores. [The judge did not talk about what would happen in a web-only environment without physical stores.]
  • It was “undisputed that no person has found the website to be fully accessible” (even the company expert) so the plaintiff won on his ADA claim.
  • The judge also ruled that “because Defendant’s website violated the ADA, Defendant’s website violates the Unruh Act,” which is California’s disability civil rights law.
  • The judge issued an injunction ordering Domino’s to bring its website into compliance with WCAG 2.0. [The court did not consider WCAG 2.1 which was not in existence when the case was filed.]
  • The judge ordered Domino’s to pay the plaintiff $4,000.00 in damages under California’s Unruh Act.
  • Both the ADA and the California state law allow a winning plaintiff in a disability civil rights case like this one to have their lawyer fees paid for by the losing defendant. The June 23, 2021 order does not talk about those fees, but expect that to be an issue in the future. (The parties could reach a settlement about attorneys’ fees or they could ask the judge to decide the amount. If they ask the judge, there could be another court order on that.) I wrote about the importance of getting lawyers fees paid in an earlier Domino’s article.

The case continues for the Domino’s mobile app

The judge ruled that the ADA covers the Domino’s mobile application “because the mobile app facilitate[s] access to the goods and services of Domino’s Pizza store.” But the judge also found that whether or not the app was accessible was disputed. This means the case has to continue on that issue.

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A phone is not equal to a website

I’ve been frustrated for many years with the Domino’s argument that a phone could substitute for an accessible website. So I was very happy to see that the judge didn’t like the argument either:

Defendant contends that its phone line is an acceptable accessibility substitute for its webpage and App. This is not true; it is undisputed that Plaintiff waited over forty-five minutes before hanging up on at least two occasions. No person who has ever waited on hold with customer service – or ever been hungry for a pizza – would find this to be an acceptable substitute for ordering from a website.Domino’s June 23, 2021 Court Order, page 11

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Judges (and lawyers) matter

The Judge who issued the most recent Domino’s order was Judge Jesus Bernal, born in Mexico and appointed by President Obama in 2012. In the Winn-Dixie web accessibility case that was recently in the news, the judge was ultra-conservative Trump appointee Elizabeth Branch. (I wrote about her here.) She threw the case out of court even though she found the website was not accessible.

In a just legal system it should not matter who appointed a judge or what their politics are. Too often in the United States, however, it does.

Ethical skilled civil rights lawyers matter too. Congratulations to Jessie Weber of the civil rights law firm Brown, Goldstein and Levy, and everyone on the legal team, with the support of the National Federation of the Blind, responsible for the June 23, 2021 Court Order.

Other articles on LFLegal about the Domino’s case

More about the long saga of the Domino’s Pizza web accessibility case in these articles I’ve written on LFLegal

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