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Defending against restaurant ADA compliance lawsuits

On Behalf of | May 11, 2020 | ADA |

In California, lawsuits against businesses over allegedly inaccessible websites and apps have skyrocketed over the past few years. Many of these claims involve plaintiffs with different types of disabilities who claim that they are unable to access areas of the websites because of a lack of accommodation. The lawsuits may be filed against the business under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

Lawsuits under the ADA

Lawsuits that are filed against restaurants because of allegedly inaccessible websites or apps under the ADA seek injunctive relief. The ADA does not allow plaintiffs to recover monetary damages. Instead, a business might be ordered to make its website or app accessible. However, the restaurant may be ordered to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. While lawsuits under the ADA do not provide for monetary damages, lawsuits under the Unruh Civil Rights Act do.

Lawsuits under the Unruh Civil Rights Act

One reason for the proliferation of lawsuits against restaurants for their websites and apps is that the Unruh Civil Rights Act allows plaintiffs to recover $4,000 per violation. Many of these cases are settled, and the defendants agree to pay some amount and to make their websites accessible within a specific period.

While restaurants are places of public accommodation under the ADA, the courts disagree about whether their websites and apps are also places of public accommodation. Some courts have found that they are and fall under Title III of the ADA. Others have found that a disabled person will only have a claim if the problems accessing the website or app also pose trouble for the person to access the restaurant’s physical location. Restaurants that are sued under the Unruh Civil Rights Act or the ADA for ADA compliance issues might benefit from consulting with experienced ADA defense lawyers may review the asserted claims to identify potential defenses that might be raised. A lawyer may work to build a strong defense on behalf of the client against these types of claims under federal or state law.