Did you know that the year 2022 faced 2387 website accessibility lawsuits?
It is because people now know of WCAG guidelines and the need for its compliance. Data reveals as much as a 143% increase in companies receiving multiple lawsuits annually.
This comprehensive report reveals all the website accessibility lawsuits filed in the United States in 2022.
- New York received a maximum of 1600 lawsuits from the 2387 lawsuits. It was a 1.5% increase over the number of cases filed in 2021
- The consumer goods, services, and retail industry faced the most lawsuits-1378
- Stein Saks, PLLC filed as many as 372 lawsuits, the maximum by any law firm.
- 67% of all lawsuits were filed by five New York and California law firms
- While more than 1,500 demand letters were sent weekly in 2022, 97% were settled and never reached court.
Web accessibility journey from 2021-2022
Though the 1.5% increase in official filings from 2021 to 2022 wasn’t as huge as in recent years, the pace of litigation filed kept growing. The growth was substantial in 2020, when courts were closed for most of the year.
The leading cause for the rise in cases was that top-filing plaintiffs filed 100+ lawsuits. At least two plaintiffs filed 100 or more lawsuits in 2022, with Perla Mageno filing as many as 108 cases.
Besides, three law firms filed more than 340 lawsuits each, with one filing 372 cases. And while five firms accounted for more than 66% of all the website accessibility lawsuits, they were also in the top six firms filing lawsuits in 2020, 2021, or both.
The 14% increase in the number of lawsuits in 2021 may be because the courts were closed in the first half of 2020. It’s highly possible that without the pandemic’s impact, there would have been a more gradual annual increase of 2% in the number of lawsuits from 2019 to 2022.
The year 2022 for Digital Accessibility
With only a 1.5% increase in the number of lawsuits in 2022, things seem to be ‘more of the same’. This is partially true as the collected data gives exciting perspectives:
- For example, a defendant where two different firms and two different plaintiffs sued in two states over 2.5 weeks.
This popular lease-to-own retailer first faced a lawsuit in New York on January 20, 2022, and was later sued for the same website in California on February 8, 2022.
And most importantly, the company’s headquarters were in Atlanta, GA, thus proving that it is possible to file cases in any state the company does business.
- There was also a law firm where 60% of the 250+ cases filed were against food, restaurant, and other related websites. Six different plaintiffs filed food-and-restaurant-related lawsuits through them in 11 of 12 months in 2022.
Actual website accessibility cases and most targeted industries
All 2,387 cases mentioned here were website accessibility cases, not any physical or other accessibility issue cases. For example, while some hospitality cases mention websites, the main complaints were allegations like the absence of physical accessibility features of hotels on the websites.
These lawsuits made allegations based on the failure of websites describing physical accessibility characteristics but didn’t make claims about the website’s accessibility.
The 2,387 cases do not include these types of lawsuits. These cases are only verifiable website accessibility cases where the digital property isn’t adequately accessible.
Of the lot, Consumer goods, service, and retail is the most targeted industry registering 423 more lawsuits in 2022 than in 2021.
Their cases account for 58% of the year’s total cases, which isn’t surprising as the industry includes a subset of consumer staples and discretionary items.
The other top four industries are in a similar position as in 2021, with only Health & Medical and Tech, Software & Internet Services swapping the fourth and fifth spots.
State-wise lawsuit filings
When it comes to the top five states for website accessibility lawsuits in 2022, they are similar to 2021. New York still dominates for web accessibility lawsuits having more than 69.5% of nationwide cases filed from here.
This is 7% more than the annual lawsuit share. New York was responsible for at least half the nation’s cases, reaching as much as 95% one month.
California had 649 filings and was the state with the second-most web accessibility lawsuits in 2022. It has always been a story of New York and California the past few years, unlike any other state.
Florida and Pennsylvania saw a drop in filings at 58 and 19, while North Carolina registered one case.
Plaintiffs and law firms that filed the most lawsuits
Five plaintiffs filed about 20% of the website accessibility lawsuits of 2022. And for the second year in a row, individual plaintiffs filed more than 100 lawsuits, something uncommon until 2021.
2022’s top two filing plaintiffs, Rusty Rendon, and Luis Licea were also on 2021’s top-five list.
2022’s top filing plaintiffs are:
- Perla Mageno at 108 lawsuits
- Rebecca Castillo at 100 lawsuits
- Rusty Rendon at 86 lawsuits
- Luis Licea at 84 lawsuits
- Marina Iskhakova at 81 lawsuits.
Five law firms were responsible for more than 66% of all website accessibility lawsuits in 2022. Each of these five top-filing law firms was also in the top six firms filing lawsuits in 2020, 2021, or both.
The firm that filed the most lawsuits in 2021 registered 340 cases, while three companies filed more than 340 cases in 2022.
- Stain Saks of New York filed the most cases at 372 and was also in 2020’s top spot with 270 cases that year.
- Mars Khaimov of New York comes in second place with 360 cases
- Mirzahi Kroub of New York is in third place with 345 lawsuits
- Manning Law of California comes in fourth place with 260 lawsuits
- Pacific Trial Attorneys of California is fifth with 259 lawsuits.
Multiple lawsuits against the same companies
There was a 143% increase in the companies receiving multiple lawsuits in 2022. Many people and organizations believe that a company once sued for digital accessibility cannot be sued again.
Or that they have a grace period before getting sued again. However, with the number of companies receiving more than one digital accessibility lawsuit increasing by 143% in 2021, this belief has been proven wrong.
Predictions for 2023
Here are some predictions about website accessibility lawsuits in 2023:
- There’s a prediction of a 5-10% increase in the number of lawsuits sans an explosion of growth in litigation.
- Based on the data of the past few years, there may be a 200% increase in companies that receive multiple lawsuits.
With the increasing number of cases against consumer e-commerce sites and history proving that any company with a web presence across the country is targeted, twice as many companies may receive at least their second digital accessibility lawsuit in 2023.
- Lawsuits may start referencing WCAG 2.2 in the second half of 2023. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the industry standard for digital accessibility compiled based on requirements set by most subject matter experts and laws for assessing accessibility conformance.
WCAG 2.1, published in 2018, is the latest version in use. The next version, WCAG 2.2, is expected to be finalized with additional success criteria and released in the summer of 2023.
And this may contribute to the predicted 5-10% increase in cases in 2023. Though not many companies will test for WCAG 2.2 criteria before it’s a recommended standard, companies facing lawsuits and previously aimed for WCAG 2.1 conformance may now face new litigation referencing WCAG 2.2.
- It is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) that publishes and maintains WCAG. And the WCAG criteria are based on four principles, Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
Possible effects of the recap on your business
To many, the high levels of suspected widespread legal demands and \ verifiable litigation are reminders of the actual legal impact of accessibility.
It will make many companies take action based on the multiple benefits an accessible digital world offers to organizations and users.
Digital accessibly is vital for:
- Independent living
The data also proves it’s vital for businesses as it reduces legal risks. Most importantly, the data proves that people are more likely to take legal action against web experiences that do not provide equal access to disabled users.
About ADA Site Compliance
We at ADA Site Compliance believe that everyone should have access to this vital information. We strive to speed up the process of providing equal access to the physical and digital worlds through objective and trustworthy information.
Our vision is to use our mission to help businesses and individuals create equal opportunity. We strive to use persistent education to teach and not convince the world.
Our values are the core characteristics we strive to uphold and admire. We believe that all individuals deserve equal full human rights without any discrimination. And that growth and progress are a collective effort built through the learning acquired through missteps.
ADA Site Compliance is the #1 source for all ADA website compliance work and can help if you face any lawsuits or website accessibility issues.
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The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.