On October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an order denying certiorari in Domino’s Pizza, LLC v. Robles, a case that would have required the Supreme Court to determine the application of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to websites and mobile applications. The Supreme Court’s order means a Ninth Circuit decision applying Title III to websites and mobile apps will stand, even in the absence of Department of Justice-promulgated regulations outlining applicable compliance standards.
On September 1, 2016, Guillermo Robles, who is visually impaired, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. He alleged that Domino’s website and mobile app were incompatible with his chosen screen-reading software, and thus violated Title III of the ADA, among other statutes. Domino’s moved for summary judgment, in part on the basis that Title III of the ADA does not extend to its website or mobile app. The District Court found that Title III did apply to Domino’s website and app, but granted summary judgment on the grounds that imposing liability on Domino’s without clear standards for satisfying Title III obligations would violate the company’s due process rights. Robles then appealed.
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On August 23, 2019, Senior Judge Paul Huck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida imposed severe sanctions—including two $59,900 penalties and an injunction prohibiting future filings without leave of court—on well-known Florida plaintiffs’ lawyer Scott R. Dinin and his client, serial plaintiff Alexander Johnson, after concluding Dinin and Johnson conspired to file frivolous claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA), inflated recoverable attorney’s fees, and unethically shared in the profits of their scheme.
The Court’s searing order stems from a series of complaints Dinin filed on Johnson’s behalf against gas station owners in southern Florida. In the pleadings, Johnson alleged the owners’ failed to include close captioning on the news and entertainment videos playing on their stations’ pumps, and thereby violated his rights under Title III of the ADA and the FCRA. The owners did not respond to Johnson’s pleading and the Court held a hearing after Johnson, through Dinin, moved for default judgment. At that hearing, the Court concluded that Dinin had “egregiously inflated and misrepresented” his claimed fees and that Johnson’s FCRA claim was frivolous because Johnson pursued it notwithstanding his knowledge that it was procedurally defective. The Court subsequently convened a hearing on July 22, 2019, for Dinin and Johnson to show cause why sanctions should not issue.
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