Recent New York Federal Court Decisions Hold that the ADA Does Not Cover Websites
Plaintiffs continue to file website accessibility lawsuits at a rapid pace, but two recent decisions in New York federal court may reduce certain types of filings in that forum. In these cases, both out of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the courts held that websites are not “places of public of accommodation” covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and on that basis, granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss. The decisions cited a recent case from the Eleventh Circuit, but more notably, disagreed with prior New York district court decisions that applied the ADA to websites even when those websites were not paired with a physical location (e.g., a brick-and-mortar store). As we have highlighted, courts across the country have applied varying standards regarding whether the ADA applies to such standalone websites. Certain courts, most notably the Ninth Circuit, require a physical nexus between the website and a physical retail location to invoke the ADA. To be sure, some jurisdictions still favor plaintiffs on this issue, but these two decisions could limit filings in district courts within the Second Circuit and may potentially signal broader changes regarding ADA website litigation.
In Winegard v. Newsday, LLC, the plaintiff filed suit against a local newspaper company that lacked any physical retail locations. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated the ADA by denying equal access to visually-impaired visitors to its website, which precluded them from watching videos. The court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and held that a website is not a “public accommodation” under the plain text of the ADA, which “clearly refers to physical places…” The Winegard court also concluded that some earlier decisions in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York may have misapplied or too broadly construed the Second Circuit’s holding in Pallozzi v. Allstate Life Insurance Co.
In Pallozzi, the plaintiffs alleged that an insurance company violated the ADA by refusing to cover them based on mental health diagnoses. The court in Winegard explained that Pallozzi focused on “whether an insurance policy is a ‘good’ or ‘service’ of an insurance office” that would invoke Section 12182(a) of the ADA, which provides equal access to goods and services. The Pallozzi court merely accepted as true that insurance offices are a place of public accommodation because they explicitly are listed in the statute. The court in Winegard did “not read Pallozzi to dictate” that a website qualifies as a place of public accommodation and said that whether the ADA should be extended beyond physical locations is a question for Congress.
In Martinez v. MyLife.com, Inc. the court cited Winegard and reached the same conclusion. The visually-impaired plaintiff in Martinez alleged that he could not use screen-reading software to access the services of MyLife.com, a website that allows subscribers to track their online reputation. The Martinez court followed the reasoning of Winegard and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The decision similarly concluded that neither “Pallozzi – nor its progeny – mandate[s] or suggest[s] any conclusion as to whether a stand-alone website … is a place of public accommodation.”
Given the split among district courts, the issue may finally percolate up to the Second Circuit. If so, and based on the recent Winn-Dixie decision in the Eleventh Circuit, the Supreme Court may also eventually address the application of the ADA to stand-alone websites. The Court previously denied certiorari in the Ninth Circuit Robles case. With the continued proliferation of website accessibility lawsuits and lack of case law or contradictory case law on certain issues, the Winegard and Martinez decisions provide some good news for businesses.
 Martinez v. Mylife.com, Inc., No. 21-cv-4779 (BMC), 2021 WL 5052745 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 1, 2021); Winegard v. Newsday LLC, No. 19-cv-04420 (EK) (RER), 2021 WL 3617522 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 16, 2021).
 Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 993 F.3d 1266 (11th Cir. 2021).
 Winegard, 2021 WL 3617522 at *8; Martinez, 2021 WL 3617522 at *2-3.
 See Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, 913 F.3d 898, 905-06 (9th Cir. 2019)
 Winegard, 2021 WL 3617522 at *1.
 Id. at *6.
 198 F.3d 28 (2d Cir. 1999).
 Winegard, 2021 WL 3617522 at *7 (emphasis in original).
 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(F).
 Winegard, 2021 WL 3617522 at *8.
 Martinez, 2021 WL 5052745 at *2-3.
 Id. at *3.
 140 S. Ct. 122 (2019).