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Robles v. Domino's Pizza, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 15, 2019

Guillermo Robles, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Domino's Pizza, LLC, a limited liability corporation, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted October 12, 2018 Pasadena, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court No. 2:16-cv-06599-SJO-FFM for the Central District of California S. James Otero, District Judge, Presiding

          Joseph R. Manning (argued) and Michael J. Manning, Manning Law APC, Newport Beach, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Gregory Francis Hurley (argued) and Bradley J. Leimkuhler, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, Costa Mesa, California, for Defendant-Appellee.

          Jessica Paulie Weber (argued) and Eve L. Hill, Brown Goldstein & Levy LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Amici Curiae National Federation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, Association of Late Deafened Adults, California Council of the Blind, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, National Association of the Deaf, National Disability Rights Network, National Federation of the Blind of California, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and World Institute on Disability.

          Stephanie N. Moot and Carol C. Lumpkin, K&L Gates LLP, Miami, Florida; Martin S. Kaufman, Executive VP and General Counsel, Atlantic Legal Foundation, Harrison, New York; for Amicus Curiae The Atlantic Legal Foundation.

          Stephanie Martz, National Retail Federation, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae National Retail Federation.

          Kathleen McGuigan and Deborah White, Retail Litigation Center, Inc., Arlington, Virginia, for Amicus Curiae Retail Litigation Center, Inc.

          Felicia Watson and Jeffrey B. Augello, National Association of Home Builders of the United States, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae National Association of Home Builders of the United States.

          Janet Galeria and Warren Postman, U.S. Chamber Litigation Center, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America.

          Angelo I. Amador, Restaurant Law Center, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae Restaurant Law Center.

          Elizabeth Milito, Karen R. Harned, National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center.

          Christine Mott, International Council of Shopping Centers, New York, New York, for Amicus Curiae International Council of Shopping Centers.

          Justin Vermuth, American Resort Development Association, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae American Resort Development Association.

          Mary Caroline Miller, Kevin W. Shaughnessy, and Joyce Ackerbaum Cox, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Orlando, Florida; John B. Lewis, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Cleveland, Ohio; for Amici Curiae Restaurant Law Center, American Bankers Association, American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Resort Development Association, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, International Council of Shopping Centers, International Franchise Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Association of Home Builders of the United States, National Association of Realtors, National Association of Theater Owners, National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, National Multifamily Housing Council, National Retail Federation, Retail Litigation Center.

          Before: Paul J. Watford and John B. Owens, Circuit Judges, and Jennifer G. Zipps, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Americans with Disabilities Act

         The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of an action under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, alleging that Domino's Pizza's website and mobile application were not fully accessible to a blind or visually impaired person.

         The panel held that the ADA applied to Domino's website and app because the Act mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino's, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind. Even though customers primarily accessed the website and app away from Domino's physical restaurants, the panel stated that the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation. The panel stated that the website and app connected customers to the goods and services of Domino's physical restaurants.

         The panel held that imposing liability on Domino's under the ADA would not violate the company's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. The panel held that the statute was not impermissibly vague, and Domino's had received fair notice that its website and app must comply with the ADA. Further, the plaintiff did not seek to impose liability on Domino's for failure to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, private industry standards for website accessibility. Rather, an order requiring compliance with WCAG 2.0 was a possible equitable remedy. Finally, the lack of specific regulations, not yet promulgated by the Department of Justice, did not eliminate Domino's statutory duty.

         The panel held that the district court erred in invoking the prudential doctrine of primary jurisdiction, which allows courts to stay proceedings or to dismiss a complaint without prejudice pending the resolution of an issue within the special competence of an administrative agency. The panel reasoned that the DOJ was aware of the issue, and its withdrawal of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking meant that undue delay was inevitable. The delay was needless because the application of the ADA to the facts of this case was well within the district court's competence. The panel remanded the case to the district court.

          OPINION

          OWENS JUDGE

         Plaintiff Guillermo Robles, a blind man, appeals from the district court's dismissal of his complaint alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act (UCRA), California Civil Code § 51. Robles alleged that Defendant Domino's Pizza, LLC, (Domino's) failed to design, construct, maintain, and operate its website and mobile application (app) to be fully accessible to him. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we reverse and remand.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Robles accesses the internet using screen-reading software, which vocalizes visual information on websites. Domino's operates a website and app that allows customers to order pizzas and other products for ...


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