Cook County Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

McDonalds, Grubhub, Kmart settle ADA lawsuits over website, app accessibility for the blind

By Jonathan Bilyk | Nov 2, 2017


Editor's note: This article has been revised to correct an error improperly identifying these lawsuits as class actions. The article has also been updated to include a statement from plaintiffs' attorney Rusty Payton.

Three lawsuits against McDonald’s, Grubhub and Kmart, alleging those companies’ apps and websites violated federal disability law because they were not easily accessible to the blind have been settled in recent days, according to Chicago federal court records.

Since Oct. 11, those companies have reached deals to end the cases brought by three plaintiffs, all represented by the same lawyers, associated with attorneys Marc E. Dann and Rusty Payton with the firm of DannLaw, in Chicago.

On Oct. 27, U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah signed off on an order declaring the case brought against Oak Brook-based McDonald’s by Dann on behalf of named plaintiff Sean Gorecki had been settled. The order did not disclose details of the settlement, except to say both sides “shall bear their respective costs and attorneys’ fees.”

Shah dismissed the case with prejudice on Oct. 30.

Also on Oct. 30, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin similarly dismissed an action brought by plaintiff Kayla Reed against Kmart.

And on Oct. 11, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle Sr. ordered an end to an action brought by Gorecki and co-plaintiff Corey Reed against Chicago-based Grubhub.

Dann and Gorecki had brought the first of the three actions against McDonald’s in April, alleging the fast food purveyor denied the visually impaired access to their websites in violation of federal law.

DannLaw, at times through Gorecki or the other plaintiffs, then followed that action with similar lawsuits against Grubhub; Ace Hardware; Empire Today and Kmart.

According to the lawsuits, the plaintiffs while visually impaired, navigate the internet and smartphone apps by using special screen-reading software, or by using an Apple iPhone using the device’s built-in VoiceOver screen reader.

The complaints noted federal authorities have typically interpreted the ADA law to mean businesses must also design their websites and apps to allow for people with visual impairments to read the pages and access the information using only such a screen reader and a keyboard.

However, the plaintiffs alleged they and others who are blind or have significant visual impairments cannot easily read the information listed on the companies’ websites or apps, alleging the companies have designed these online sources in ways that make it difficult for the screen readers they use to navigate and access the information contained on the pages and in the app.

The lawsuits had asked the court to award statutory damages of $4,000 per violation.

In an emailed statement to The Cook County Record, Payton said declined to comment on the specific cases, but said: 

"As we all know, the internet has become an indispensable gateway for information and commerce.  Those with disabilities depend upon the internet daily -  imagine if you will the benefit to a visually impaired customer being able to have food from their favorite restaurant delivered to their door through the use of a site like Grub Hub. With small accommodations, sites and apps can be made equally accessible thanks to innovative tools such as screen readers that are used widely. Making sites and apps accessible to all is not only the right thing to do, but it is simply good for business.  

"Our clients bring these cases when they encounter significant barriers to access which can be readily eliminated. While I cannot comment on the resolution of these particular cases, I can tell you that our primary goal in bringing suit is to work with defendants to bring their websites and any apps into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act through an agreed upon plan. In so doing, we believe that the business community and others will become mindful of the issue and take all of their potential customers into account when designing web site and apps."

Kmart was represented by attorneys with the firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP in Chicago; McDonald’s, by the firm of Jones Day, of Irvine, Calif.; and Grubhub by the firm of Fox Rothschild LLP, of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Jones DaySears Holdings CorporationFox Rothschild LLPGrubhubPaytonDannSeyfarth Shaw, LLP