Cross-Posted from ADA Title III Blog
Seyfarth Synopsis: Courts in the Fourth Circuit are taking a hard look at a plaintiffs’ standing in website accessibility cases.
In a small but potentially important victory for defendants facing website accessibility lawsuits, the Fourth Circuit has issued two decisions upholding dismissal of lawsuits for lack of standing with a well-reasoned analysis that can be applied to the defense of other lawsuits.
The blind plaintiff in Griffin v. Dept. of Labor Credit Union sued the credit union under Title III of the ADA alleging its website was not accessible to him through his screen reader software. Reviewing the district court’s dismissal of the case for lack of standing, the Fourth Circuit held that the plaintiff did not have standing to bring his claim because he had not suffered an injury in fact and was not facing an imminent injury in the future. The Court cited to the fact that the plaintiff could never become a member of the defendant credit union whose membership was limited to current and former employees of the Department of Labor and their immediate families and households. This position contradicts a few decisions from judges in other jurisdictions who concluded that the inability obtain information about a business that a plaintiff could never actually patronize is an injury in fact sufficient to establish standing. Although the Fourth Circuit said its holding was intended to apply narrowly to the scenario before it, its thoughtful elaboration of the standing requirements still provides support for defendants seeking to dismiss cases where the complaint fails to plead a credible desire or need to obtain goods or services from the defendant’s website.