We’ve written about the need for cannabis businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) before, and, as evidenced by a recent filing against Good Guy Vapes Int LLC (“Good Guy”), the complaints haven’t slowed down. Cannabis company operators large and small should be aware of the growing trend of federal class action lawsuits claiming commercial websites and point-of-sale terminals that allegedly violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”).
As a reminder, the ADA requires all businesses to remove any barriers that interfere with a person with a disability’s ability to access their products or services online. Under the ADA, “a company may have discriminated against persons with disabilities when it constructs and maintains quote-to-quote architectural barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from enjoying the business like any other person. “.
Good Guy’s Complaint
Earlier this month, a class action lawsuit was filed against Good Guy Vapes Int LLC in federal court in New York. Plaintiff Luigi Abreu is identified as visually impaired and legally blind. The complaint alleges that Good Guy Vapes failed to design and operate its website to be independently usable by Abreu and others like him who read screen reading software. While trying to purchase products from the website, Abreu encountered:
- Screen reader fails to read in-context links;
- The screen reader repeats the website name whenever another link is not selected;
- Screen reader fails to read link found on promotional images;
- Screen reader fails to describe images;
- The screen reader suddenly stops working in the middle of a sentence or speech;
- The screen reader skips some text on the page;
- Screen reader fails to read item description links; and
- Screen reader fails to read the “shopping cart” link when a new item is added.
The complaint cites the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”), which is a well-established set of guidelines created to ensure websites are accessible. Here, Abreu claims that he “encountered multiple access barriers that refused [him] full and equal access to goods and/or services offered (and made available) to the general public”.
The Equivalent Law of New York
And for our New York people in particular – Abreu includes a second complaint under state law for violation of the New York City Human Rights Act, Administrative Code Sections 8-1010 of the City of New York, et seq. Section 8-107(4)(a) provides:
“It will be an unlawful discriminatory practice against any person, owner, franchisor, franchisee, lessor, tenant, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent or employee of any venue or public accommodation provider, because of . . . disability. . . directly or indirectly, to deny, deny or deny such person full and equal enjoyment, on equal terms, of any of the accommodations, benefits, facilities or privileges of the place or provision of public accommodation “.
What Your Cannabis Business Needs To Know
These lawsuits have typically been brought by groups of visually impaired consumers who claim that a certain website does not accommodate their disability. If a claim is successful, the defendant may be required to take all sorts of mitigating actions. These include incurring the cost of redesigning its website or point-of-sale system to comply, and paying the plaintiff’s attorney fees and costs. And in New York, plaintiffs can additionally seek civil penalties, fines, and punitive damages, which is exactly what Abreu did here. All in all, these lawsuits can also get very expensive, very fast.
We want to remind everyone of the importance of making sure your cannabis business stays up to date on what the ADA requires. Everyone should implement practices to ensure their systems are up to date. Compliance is key here.
#ADA #Cannabis #Class #Actions #Good #Guy #Edition