The issue of “drive-by” lawsuits pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is widely acknowledged in the legal community. Another closely-related issue, however, is on the rise in courts nationwide: Website-oriented accessibility complaints under the ADA, known as “surf-by” lawsuits.
These lawsuits are an analog of the tactics used by litigious, often professional plaintiffs around the country in “drive-by” lawsuits. In some cases, attorneys can even use scanning software to identify cases wholesale wherein a website could be interpreted as not accessible to a user with a disability, such as hearing or vision loss, or loss of motor function. They may focus on a drop-down menu malfunctioning, or the inability for widely-used “screen-reading” software to identify written messages on the screen, or even the lack of closed captions on a video, to name a few examples.
The threat that these suits pose to unsuspecting owners and operators is real. The National Apartment Association has worked with the law firm Blank Rome and their attorneys Anthony Mingione and Martin Krezalek to produce a memorandum that more comprehensively explains these lawsuits, the legal landscape surrounding them, strategies to keep member websites accessible, and key takeaways you should consider should you face a lawsuit. We encourage you to familiarize yourselves with this threat and take steps to avoid any risks that such a lawsuit may pose.
Thank you for all that you do to improve and protect our industry. If you have questions concerning this document, please don’t hesitate to let myself or Ayiesha Beverly know.
Vice President National Lease Program and Counsel