Federal Court Dismisses ADA Lawsuit Against Virginia Based Credit Union — 1/30/18

On January 26, a federal district court in Virginia threw out a lawsuit brought against Northwest FCU that alleged website accessibility issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ruling comes after a week when several credit unions in West Virginia received demand letters from a law firm in California seeking unspecified damages for their visually impaired client, and threatening a lawsuit if the demands aren’t met. Several other states have been bombarded with similar letters.

U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton determined that a website is not a place of public accommodation, taking the approach that a place of public accommodation must be a brick-and-mortar location. The judge decided to dismiss Carroll v. Northwest FCU after finding the plaintiff was not eligible to join the credit union, and therefore unable to suffer any harm or injury.

Both CUNA and CUNA Mutual representatives have stressed that the law is “unsettled” with regard to ADA web accessibility given that the Department of Justice has failed to write clear rules on the matter. The judge’s ruling is seen as a step in the right direction since West Virginia’s credit unions fall within the U.S. Fourth Judicial Circuit.

“Even though the news coming out of Virginia is positive, this issue is not settled by any means,” stated League Ken Watts. “League staff will continue to work closely with CUNA, CUNA Mutual, and our retained attorneys to monitor future developments and to do whatever we can to assist WV credit unions in dealing with this matter. Also, please be assured we will bring this matter to the attention of our Congressional delegation during the GAC Hill visits next month,” he added.

“Regardless of how these legal developments unfold going forward, the best approach is to ensure your credit union's website is within the standards set out in WCAG 2.0 AA,” Watts emphasized.

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