August 12, 2022

CA Court of Appeals Issues Precedent Setting Ruling on Website Public Accommodation Issue

Online-only businesses received great news this week when the California Court of Appeal issued a ruling that closes the door on California lawsuits brought against online-only businesses. The Court, in agreement with 9th Circuit precedent, ruled in Martinez v. Cot’n Wash, Inc., that websites associated with online-only businesses are not “public accommodations” covered by the ADA. Rounding out the decision was the Court’s determination that maintaining an inaccessible website does not constitute an act of intentional discrimination under the Unruh Act.

The Court reasoned that awareness and subsequent inaction on the part of both Congress and the Department of Justice to address, via legislation or regulation, the confusion surrounding the issue of whether and under what circumstances a website constitutes a “place of public accommodation” suggests that neither entity sanctions the coverage of websites by the ADA.

This is a significant decision for businesses without brick-and-mortar retail locations[i] and should help to stem the rising tide of website-accessibility lawsuits in California.

[i] Physical facilities where goods and services are offered to the public and who utilize a pubic website to offer or support retail sales.