Yet another district court in the Ninth Circuit has affirmed the position that websites with no nexus to traditional brick and mortar places of public accommodation are not in and of themselves places of public accommodation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while also underscoring that Title III does not require public accommodations to stock and offer accessible goods and products as part of its regular inventory.
In Jancik v. Redbox Automated Retail, LLC, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67223 (C.D. Cal. May 14, 2014), the district court for the Central District of California dismissed plaintiff’s (a deaf individual) claims regarding the lack of captioning on Redbox’s (a distributor of both DVD and streaming video media) streaming video library, stating that it was bound by Ninth Circuit precedent, as set forth in a number of cases out of California district courts over the last several years, that the definition of “place of public accommodation” under Title III is “narrow” and “encompasses only ‘actual, physical places,’” as opposed to those existing purely in cyber-space (or situations where a sufficient nexus exists between the physical place of public accommodation and its website).
Of course, this area of the law is rapidly developing, as official regulations and technical standards from the U.S. Department of Justice governing accessibility for the websites of places of public accommodation are currently in the works (see our related post of May 30, 2014, regarding the timing of impending DOJ regulations).
The Court also held that under Title III Redbox was not required to provide an expanded inventory of closed-captioned videos through either its public rental kiosks or its online streaming service. Noting Title III’s governing regulations stating that a public accommodation is not required to “alter its inventory to include accessible or special goods that are designed for, or facilitate use by, individuals with disabilities,” the court rejected plaintiff’s argument that closed captioned DVDs are not “accessible or special goods” because technological advances have made it easier to add captioning, concluding that “[t]he fact that it is now easier to make a product ‘accessible’ does not alter the plain meaning of the regulation.”