Even before COVID-19 entered our lives, it was clear that more and more businesses were realizing the importance of engaging with consumers online. Now, as most are forced to limit their in-person activities or shut them down altogether, we are seeing an even sharper trend in businesses investing in their online presence – especially with the creation of new websites and social media platforms to communicate status updates and allow for online ordering.
What business owners may not be aware of, especially as they race to do what’s necessary to keep their businesses afloat in these unprecedented times, is that there is a growing trend of federal class-action lawsuits claiming those websites and point-of-sale terminals violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). The ADA requires all businesses to remove any obstacle that interferes with a disabled person’s ability to access their products or services online. If a claim is successful, the defendant can be required to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs, and incur the cost of redesigning its website or point-of-sale system to comply. California also has its own, supplementary set of statutory law – the Unruh Civil Rights Act (“UCRA”), which mirrors the ADA but additionally opens the door to statutory damages.
These lawsuits have typically been brought by groups of visually-impaired consumers who claim that a certain website fails to accommodate their disability – and now, whether by valid plaintiffs or not, the cannabis industry is their next target. Cannabis company NC3 Systems, which operates as Caliva and is backed by Jay-Z, was sued on July 12 for “its failure to design, construct, maintain, and operate its website to be fully and equally accessible to and independently usable by [the p]laintiff and other blind or visually-impaired people.” (Read Full Article)