How expansively should courts define an ADA “place of public accommodation”?

In Magee v. Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc., the Supreme Court is being asked to resolve what might be a relatively narrow question under the Americans with Disabilities Act: whether a soft drink vending machine (which happens to be web-enabled) counts as a “place of public accommodation.” Plaintiffs in the case argue that it is a “sales establishment,” but the Fifth Circuit found that term more appropriately to cover business establishments that a customer might enter. Lurking in the background, for possible guidance if not resolution by the Court, is the much bigger question of whether virtual-only elements of commerce, such as websites, are “establishments” of “public accommodation.” The high court has not resolved that question, which has allowed for the growth of the fantastically expensive and onerous theories of web accessibility under which lawyers are now rolling out a large volume of lawsuits, such as one challenging as inaccessible the order-taking website of the Five Guys hamburger chain. Perhaps aware of these major if not necessarily immediate implications, the Supreme Court has invited the U.S. Department of Justice to offer comments on whether it should grant certiorari in the case. [Daniel Fisher]

2 Comments

  • “[T]he high court has not resolved that question.” What irritates me most about these laws is that once written, Congress sits on their hands as the Courts interpret the laws however they wish over the next few decades. Unlike Ten Commandments written on stone… these laws can be rewritten if they are not perfectly clear. It’d be better if the Court handed back the law back to Congress marked “Incomplete” and asked them to come see them during office hours next week.

  • Since section 508 was signed into law and it covers specifically web accessibility and other things for federal procurement, use, development, etc… Doesn’t that pretty well establish that it isn’t in ADA?

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