U.S. News

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Domino's bid to avoid disabilities suit

FILE PHOTO: A Domino's Pizza restaurant is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid by Domino’s Pizza Inc to avoid a lawsuit by a blind man who accused the company of violating a law barring discrimination against people with disabilities after he was unable to place an order online.

The justices, on the first day of their new nine-month term, declined to hear Michigan-based company’s appeal of a lower court ruling allowing the lawsuit by Guillermo Robles invoking the Americans With Disabilities Act to move forward.

Robles said in his 2016 lawsuit that the Domino’s website and mobile app were not fully accessible for him in violation of the 1990 law that bans discrimination based on disability.

Robles argued that on least two occasions he was unable to order a pizza because screen-reading software he uses did not work properly. His lawsuit alleged that Domino’s did not follow commonly used guidance on how to make websites and apps more accessible. Title III of the law requires that disabled people be able to access buildings open to the public, including restaurants.

The law has not been updated in response to the rise of the internet, including consumer use of websites and smartphone apps to buy products and services.

The U.S. Justice Department has yet to issue any guidance on how the ADA can be applied online, if at all.

In the meantime, lawyers for various plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against companies and other entities alleging ADA violations based on difficulties accessing services or products online. Domino’s had said in its appeal that more than 2,000 lawsuits were filed in 2018 alone.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that the Domino’s website and app were effectively extensions to its brick-and-mortar buildings where the pizzas are made.

A federal judge in California dismissed Robles’ lawsuit in 2017, prompting him to appeal to the 9th Circuit.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham