The number of ADA Title III lawsuits filed in federal court in 2018 hit a record high of 10,163 – up 34% from 2017 when the number was a mere 7,663. This is by far the highest number of annual filings since we started tracking these numbers in 2013, when the number of federal filings was only 2,722. In other words, the number of cases has more than tripled
California, New York, and Florida led the pack by a wide margin as the states with the most ADA Title III lawsuits, with Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Alabama making the top ten but trailing far behind. Nevada, Colorado, and Utah fell out of the top ten in 2018, displaced by newcomers Alabama, Arizona, and Massachusetts. No ADA Title III lawsuits were filed in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
The big news among the top three states is that New York displaced Florida as the second busiest jurisdiction. Filings in New York more than doubled from 2017 to 2018 (1023 vs. 2338) while the number of cases filed in Florida only increased from 1488 to 1941. The number of lawsuits filed in California increased by 54% from 2751 in 2017 to 4249 in 2018. This record-breaking California number does not even include the many state court filings which we do not track.
The fact that the California federal courts only had ten website accessibility lawsuits filings in 2018 may be a surprise to some since California continues to lead the pack in the number of all ADA Title III lawsuit filings in federal court. However, it appears that plaintiffs filed their new cases in state court after a federal judge in the Central District of California dismissed a website accessibility lawsuit against Dominos’ in 2017. The Ninth Circuit reversed that dismissal last month, making California federal court an attractive venue for plaintiffs once again. We predict that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling will cause the number of website accessibility lawsuits in California federal courts to increase dramatically in 2019.
What are these lawsuits about? Based on the many cases we see, most cases concern allegedly inaccessible physical facilities or websites. However, there have also been a number of lawsuits claiming that hotels are not putting information about the accessibility of their physical facilities on their reservations websites as required by the ADA regulations, and some lawsuits regarding service animals and sign language interpreters.
Many commentators predict that the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of review of the Robles v. Domino’s Ninth Circuit decision will result in a surge of website accessibility lawsuits. To test this theory, we counted the number of lawsuits filed from January 1, 2019 to October 7, 2019 – the date the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. There were 1906 website accessibility lawsuits filed up to and including October 7, 2019, for a daily average of seven filings. We will see how the post-Domino’s number stacks up in the coming months.
Businesses feeling under siege are not likely to see relief any time soon. Attempts to curb this lawsuit tsunami through federal legislation such as the "ADA Education and Reform Act" passed by the House last year have seen no progress.