In Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites and mobile applications, finding that, “The alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises—which are places of public accommodation.”
The case was on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which had granted a motion to dismiss by Domino’s on the basis of the primary jurisdiction doctrine. That doctrine allows courts to dismiss or stay litigation pending a government agency’s resolution of an issue. In this case, the court found that since the Department of Justice had not disseminated rules that defined website accessibility or given guidance on how to make websites accessible, finding that Domino’s website was not ADA-compliant would be a violation of the company’s due process rights.
The appeal to the Ninth Circuit raised three issues:
- Whether the ADA applies to Domino’s website and mobile app;
- Whether a ruling that the ADA does apply would raise due process concerns; and
- Whether invocation of the primary jurisdiction doctrine was correct based on the DOJ’s failure to provide guidance on making websites ADA-compliant.
On the first issue, the Ninth Circuit sided with the district court, which found that the ADA does apply to Domino’s website and app based on the “nexus between Domino’s website and app and physical restaurants.”
As to the second issue, the Ninth Circuit said that the lack of guidance from the DOJ does not relieve Domino’s of the duty to comply with the ADA, noting that the company had received notice as far back as 1996 on the necessity for its online offerings to be accessible to disabled customers. The court noted that, “While we understand why Domino’s wants DOJ to issue specific guidelines for website and app accessibility, the Constitution only requires that Domino’s receive fair notice of its legal duties, not a blueprint for compliance with its statutory obligations.”
On the third issue, the Ninth Circuit said that the district court had erred in its application of the primary jurisdiction doctrine, stating that the district court was fully competent to apply the ADA to the facts of the case.
The Ninth Circuit returned the case to the district court to decide, following discovery, whether or not the Domino’s website and app comply with ADA mandates for “full and equal enjoyment of its products and services.”
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