Repeat Plaintiffs Will Struggle to Submit Web Accessibility Lawsuits in New York
New York courts have been dealing with a record number of lawsuits over the past few years, with well over 2,000 cases filed in 2021 alone. If we compare this to California, where only 359 cases were filed in the same period, we can truly see how inundated New York is.
The majority of New York’s cases are linked to a handful of firms that have filed lawsuits on behalf of blind plaintiffs making vague allegations against hundreds of websites.
Following a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Harty v. West Point Realty, defendants now have a greater chance of cases being dismissed due to a lack of concrete evidence.
It is no longer enough for a plaintiff to simply encounter a barrier to access on a website – they need to point out specifics about how they were affected.
In the above-mentioned case, the plaintiff was suing a hotel in Florida because their website had insufficient information available about accessibility features for those with mobility, hearing, and visual disabilities.
However, the case was dismissed because the plaintiff had no plans to visit the hotel, let alone the area, which means this lack of information had no impact on him.
The Court stated:
“[e]ven assuming that Harty can allege that he was deprived of information to which he is entitled by the ADA, he must also allege downstream consequences from failing to receive the required information in order to have an Article III injury in fact. In other words, Harty must show that he has an “interest in using the information … beyond bringing [his] lawsuit. That he has not done. Harty, therefore, has not alleged an informational injury sufficient for Article III standing.”
Basically, plaintiffs need to show how a lack of access to information, goods, or services has affected them in order to bring forward a web accessibility lawsuit.
The Second Circuit is also not the first Court of Appeals to implement stricter requirements for lawsuits of this nature. The Fifth and Tenth Circuits have also joined this movement. However, the fact that other courts are still deeming encounters with inaccessible content a violation could lead to an official petition in the coming months.
Until then, plaintiffs in New York can expect to encounter difficulties when attempting to file web accessibility lawsuits without specific proof of its direct impact on their lives.