Organizations with $33 Billion in annual revenue were sued over accessibility in one week last month

2020 accessibility lawsuits are on track to be close to 50 % higher than either 2018 or 2019. This article reviews a single week’s worth of those lawsuits.

Pad of paper with empty “this week” tear sheets on them.
Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Total number of lawsuits filed in one week: at least 82

Annualized, this works out to about 4000 per year. Some weeks are over 100 at this point. Why so high? Right now, litigators are playing catch-up from when the courts were shut down last spring and only hearing emergency cases.

  1. California state cases, where Unruh Act cases, California’s bigger, badder ADA cousin, are filed.

The total value of one year’s annual revenue for these organizations sued in ONE WEEK was $33 BILLION dollars

Clothing

Hanesbrands Inc. 2019 revenue, almost $7 billion.

Litigation History: 5 lawsuits so far, 3 lawsuits in 2020 alone.

Cole Haan 2019 Revenue: $686.6 million.

Litigation History: Has been sued 4 times previously over ADA issues, including twice in 2020.

Wolverine World Wide, Inc. (shoewear, parent company to Harley-Davidson Footwear, Hush Puppies, Keds, Merrell, Saucony, Sperry, and Strideright) 2019 Revenue: $2.27 billion

Eileen Fisher, women's clothing. 2019 revenue, $500 million

History: 6 lawsuits so far, 3 of which have been filed in 2020. Two of these lawsuits were filed within 2 days — with different plaintiffs but the same lawyer. Thanks to the Hooters case, several lawsuits filed against the same defendant at the same time.

Jill Acquisition, LLC d.b.a. J.Jill. 2019 revenue $641 million

History: Multiple lawsuits — 3 so far

SPARC Group LLC (Forever 21, Aeropostale, and Lucky Brand) 2019 revenue $843 million

Food

Bill Miller Bar-B-Q Enterprises, LTD. Annual Revenue: $250 million

Murray’s Cheese LLC 2019 annual revenue $250 million (7 % of the US cheese sales)

BA SPORTS NUTRITION, LLC, d.b.a. DRINKBODYARMOR.COM Annual Revenue $125 million

Bogopa Service Corp. (owns Food Bazar) Annual Revenue: $27 million

History: Multiple previous lawsuits

Books

Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc. Revenue: 3.48 billion

Litigation History: Multiple previous lawsuits

Healthcare

Hims, Inc., male health care services Revenue: Guidance for 2020 is $250 million

History: three lawsuits so far. Either Alexis Ohanian is too busy recording commercials to air on MLB baseball playoff games to be interested in accessibility, or he isn’t worried about selling products to male customers with disabilities?

Careington International Corporation (dental plans) Revenue: $118 million

Zarbees, Inc. — a division of McNeil (vitamins) Revenue: Between $10 and $50 million

Retail

There are two themes for retail lawsuits for the week of September 21, 2020.

  • Someone clearly went on a lawsuit spree of reviewing companies that sell housewares.

Camera Equipment

  • Olympus America Inc. Annual revenue over $7 Billion
  • Nikon Inc. Annual revenue almost $5.5 Billion
  • Sigma Corporation of America Annual revenue over $350 million

Home Decor

  • Bradshaw International, Inc. Annual Revenue $327 million
  • Croscill Home LLC Annual Revenue $142 million
  • Chairish, Inc. Annual Revenue $4 million

Harry’s.com, Inc. Annual Revenue $200 million, multiple lawsuits

Travel

Cruise America, Inc. Annual revenue: 30 million

Though left them out of the total since the cruise industry has been devastated by COVID.

Entertainment / Sports

  • World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Annual Revenue $960 million
  • Golf Warehouse, LLC Annual Revenue $743 million
  • BSN Sports, LLC Annual Revenue $500 million

Services

  • Two Men And A Truck/ International, Inc. Annual Revenue $400 million

Education

You can’t really measure universities by annual revenue, so I used endowment figures instead. Educational institutions typically get hit with a double whammy in accessibility lawsuits. Not only are there ADA violations alleged, typically 508/504 violations are alleged as well if the educational institution received money from the federal, state, or local governments for their operation.

Abilene Christian University ($452 million in endowments)

Claflin University ($203 million in endowments)

  • Relief CCR — CBD company
  • Surf City Hospitality, Inc.
  • Terranova Real Estate Group, Inc.
  • Neil’s Motor Homes, Inc.;
  • Dealer Spike;
  • Boys Hamburgers #6;
  • Window Covering Experts, Inc.
  • Krua Thai Group.

But wait, isn’t there some plugin / tool / overlay / widget that I can install that will solve the problem for cheap?

TL;DR

Yes, there are such things.

No, they won’t solve your accessibility issues or prevent lawsuits.

Special mention goes to the following companies who use accessibility plugins, widgets, or overlays who got sued the week of September 21, 2020. That means someone at those organizations knew enough to recognize that accessibility is important and actively didn’t care enough actually to solve the problem.

  • Equalweb advertises that you can “Make your website accessible in 1 easy step.”
  • AudioEye claims to “Provide the highest level of legal protection, backed by the industry’s only always-on, sustainable solution certifying ADA/Section 508 compliance against WCAG 2.1 AA standards.”
  • Userway says they are the “strongest legal mitigation for ADA accessibility & compliance.”
  1. Indiana Botanic Gardens, Blue Moon Fish Company, and The Beard Club, which all use accessiBe.
  2. Greenvale Liquors, which uses Userway.
  3. Pinto Ranch, which uses EqualWeb.
  1. What is your signing authority? Most mid-level managers have a signing authority of between $2,500 and $25,000. However, continuing to for ignore accessibility may easily incur accessibility litigation expenses exceeding $1 million. That’s probably something most people would prefer not to be remembered for.
  1. change your processes to keep accessibility problems from returning.
  • Almost 10 % of the cases from the week of September 21 were against companies who had been sued previously.
  • Why would you go through the pain and expense of one lawsuit, make the software accessible, fail to integrate it with ongoing work, which results in backsliding and repeat lawsuit opportunities?

If executives only want to invest in the pretense of an accessibility magic bullet, they get exactly what they deserved if they get sued.

If they think their litigation risk will be lessened, then they are the latest in a series of humans who fail to appropriately calculate the risk of a low-probability/high impact event. It’s no different than going to Sturgis without a mask in the middle of a pandemic.

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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