Defense of ‘Mootness’ Prevails When Website Operator Engaged Third-Party Consultant to Improve Site Accessibility

Federal Judge James P. Jones handed website owners, operators and developers a major win in April 2018 in dismissing the website accessibility/Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case brought by blind plaintiff Keith Carroll. Carroll v. New People’s Bank, Case No. 1:17CV00044, E.D. Va, April 5, 2018.

Carroll’s complaint was similar to many other website accessibility complaints in that it alleged that the plaintiff:

  • is blind or visually impaired;
  • uses a screen-reader to access the internet;
  • but is unable to read or access the defendant New People Bank’s website as it was not designed or maintained to work well with screen-reader technology.

Successful Defense of Mootness

Judge Jones granted the bank’s motion to dismiss in light of the fact that the bank had engaged a third party consultant to improve the accessibility of the website. The bank “contends that Carroll’s claim is now moot based on its voluntary upgrades made to the website after this action was filed, which upgrades Carroll does not dispute. I agree. If a claim becomes moot, the court no longer has jurisdiction to decide it.”

Other Courts Agree

Other courts have similarly dismissed website accessibility/ADA cases, albeit sometimes on different legal grounds. For example, in the case of Gomez v. Empower “U,” Case No. 17-CV-22633-GAYLES, S.D. Fl, Oct. 31. 2017, the court wrote that “If, upon review of the report, the Court finds that Defendant intends to remediate the property in a timely manner, the Court will administratively close the case pending remediation.”

Takeaway

The takeaway for website owners, operators and developers is that bona fide, meaningful accessibility improvements by a third party website accessibility consultant or developer provides a meaningful defense, recognized by a growing number of courts.