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Date: 06-20-2020

Case Style:

Abelardo Martinez v. San Diego County Credit Union

Case Number: D075360

Judge: Haller, J.

Court: California Court of Appeals Fourth Appellate District, Division One on appeal from the Superior Court, County of San Diego

Plaintiff's Attorney: Scott J. Ferrell and Richard Hikida

Defendant's Attorney: Gregory F. Hurley and Bradley J. Leimkuhler

Description: Abelardo Martinez, who is blind, brought an action against San Diego County
Credit Union (Credit Union) claiming its website is incompatible with software
permitting him to read website content. He alleged this defect denied him equal access
to, and full enjoyment of, the Credit Union's website and its physical locations. Martinez
asserted a single cause of action under the Unruh Civil Rights Act based on two alternate
theories: (1) Credit Union's website violates the American Disabilities Act (ADA); and
(2) Credit Union's actions constitute intentional discrimination prohibited by the Unruh
Civil Rights Act. (See Civ. Code, § 51 et seq.; 42 U.S.C., § 12101 et seq.)1
On the day scheduled for jury selection, the court dismissed the action on its own
motion based on its understanding Martinez was intending to pursue only the ADA
theory, and the court's finding Martinez had not sufficiently alleged Credit Union's
website constitutes a "public accommodation" within the meaning of the ADA.
(§ 12182(a).) Although the court characterized its ruling as a nonsuit, the parties agree it
was a conclusion based solely on Martinez's pleadings.
Martinez appeals. We determine the court erred in dismissing the action at the
pleadings stage based on the ADA's public-accommodation element. Although the courts
have not yet articulated a single clear standard on this issue, most of the federal circuits
and one California Court of Appeal have held a disabled plaintiff can state a viable ADA
claim for alleged unequal access to a private entity's website if there is a sufficient nexus
between the claimed barriers and the plaintiff's ability to use or enjoy the goods and
services offered at the defendant's physical facilities. Under this standard, we conclude
Martinez has alleged a sufficient nexus to state an ADA violation. We thus do not reach
the broader issue whether a website constitutes a public accommodation governed by the
ADA even without a nexus to the defendant's physical location.

1 Unspecified statutory references are to Title 42 of the United States Code.
We reject Credit Union's alternate argument that the dismissal was proper because
the United States Congress has not enacted specific website accessibility standards. Even
without these standards, the courts have the authority to interpret applicable ADA
provisions and apply them to website accessibility issues. We also find unavailing Credit
Union's challenges to potential remedies for alleged defects on its website. These
challenges are based on facts outside the appellate record and are premature at the
pleading stage.
Martinez is permanently blind and requires screen reading software to vocalize
visual information on the computer screen, allowing him to "read" website content and
access the Internet.
In July 2017, Martinez filed a complaint against Credit Union. According to his
allegations, Credit Union maintains its website in such a way that it contains "numerous
access barriers" precluding him from using his screen reading software to access the
information on the website. Specifically, Martinez alleged Credit Union's website is
incompatible with this software because the website contains: (1) missing alternative
text, which is code embedded beneath a graphical image that allows screen readers to
vocalize a description of the graphics and permits users to determine the website content;

2 Credit Union devotes significant portions of its appellate brief to negatively
characterize ADA lawsuits in general. These assertions are unhelpful and unsupported
by the record, and we disregard them.
(2) empty links, creating confusion for keyboard and screen reader users; (3) redundant
links resulting in additional navigation and unnecessary repetition; and (4) missing form
labels, which creates a problem because the function or purpose of the form control may
not be presented to screen reader users.
Martinez alleged the screen reading software is "the only method by which a blind
person may independently access the internet," and described the online industry
standards organization's publication of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version
2.0 (Accessibility Guidelines), which sets forth rules to ensure website accessibility for
visually impaired individuals. These rules include adding "invisible alternative text to
graphics" to ensure "all functions can be performed using a keyboard" and "that image
maps are accessible." He alleged that without these basic components, "a website will be
inaccessible to a blind or visually impaired person using a screen reader."
With respect to Credit Union, Martinez alleged it operates multiple credit union
locations, and that its website is "integrated" with the physical locations. He claimed
Credit Union's website provides "access to the array of [Credit Union's] services,
including a location locator, descriptions of its products and services, and many other
benefits related to these facilities and services." He alleged that he has made multiple
attempts to use and navigate the website, but because of the website's formatting, he has
been unable to do so. He claimed this inability to use the website has deterred him from
visiting Credit Union's physical locations, using the website, and obtaining the benefits of
Credit Union's goods and services. Specifically, he alleged he is unable to "effectively
browse for [Credit Union's] locations, products and services online," and claimed that if
the website were accessible, he "could independently investigate services and products,
and find the locations to visit via Defendant's website as sighted individuals can and do."
Martinez asserted a single cause of action for violation of the Unruh Civil Rights
Act. (Civ. Code, § 51.) He alleged two theories for recovery. First, he alleged Credit
Union's conduct in maintaining its website in a form inaccessible to visually impaired
individuals, and failing to take corrective action after notice, constituted prohibited
"intentional discrimination" under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Second, he claimed
Credit Union's website violates the ADA, an independent basis for liability under the
Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Martinez sought: (1) $4,000 per violation; (2) injunctive relief requiring Credit
Union to take steps necessary to make its website accessible to visually impaired
individuals (but limiting his request to the expenditure of no more than $50,000 to correct
the deficiencies); and (3) attorney fees and costs not to exceed $74,999.
Credit Union answered, denying the allegations, but did not challenge the
pleadings or move for summary judgment. Trial was scheduled for Tuesday, November
13, 2018.
November 8, 2018 Hearing
Several days before the trial date, on Thursday, November 8, the court held a
hearing on the parties' motions in limine, proposed jury instructions, and verdict forms.
The court and counsel first discussed each of Martinez's eight motions and Credit Union's
three motions. Of relevance here, during the discussion, Credit Union asked the court to
exclude any reference to the Accessibility Guidelines, and after lengthy arguments, the
court said it would reserve ruling on the issue, but commented it was "up to the jury to
decide" if the Credit Union's website violated statutory standards, and therefore it may
permit Martinez to present evidence of the Accessibility Guidelines "for limited purposes
[and] with a limiting instruction." On Credit Union's motion to exclude any evidence of
barriers that were not specifically alleged, the court also reserved ruling on the motion,
but noted that Credit Union had not brought a demurrer, and to the extent the complaint
was not sufficiently detailed to provide adequate notice, Credit Union had the full
opportunity to conduct discovery.
After reiterating November 13 as the trial start date and informing counsel of its
department trial rules, the court and counsel discussed the proposed jury instructions and
verdict forms. Toward the end of this discussion, counsel told the court there is a split
among the federal circuits as to whether a website is subject to the ADA, and whether a
nexus between the defendant's website and its physical facilities is required to trigger
ADA protection. The court responded that the arguments on the issue of "accessing the
physical" space and any required "nexus" had "piqued [its] interest," and that it was
"interested in briefing on that." After counsel told the court that most of the case law has
arisen in the federal courts, and no California appellate court has yet ruled on this issue,
the court said, "Lucky me. So you . . . need to brief this. You both need to put together a
trial brief for me. I've got a pretty good feel, but you [both] know this area inside and
out . . . since there aren't any California appellate court cases. . . ." The court asked
counsel to email their briefs by Monday morning (the day before jury selection was
scheduled to begin), and said, "I'll go through the briefs Tuesday, and then we'll start
picking the jury Tuesday afternoon."
On Monday November 12, the parties emailed their trial briefs to the court. Credit
Union's brief was 44 pages and addressed numerous legal issues in addition to the public
accommodations issue raised by the court. Martinez's brief was 19 pages and more
limited than Credit Union's brief.
November 13 Hearing and Order
The next day, the parties met in chambers for an unrecorded discussion. After the
discussion, the court held a hearing on the record. At the outset of the hearing, the court
"We have had [a] chambers discussion. I have reviewed both sides'
trial briefs, and I have given . . . this matter a tremendous amount of
thought over the three-day weekend. And with the benefit of the
trial briefs, I think the Court's position has clarified.
"And I asked counsel back in chambers . . . if they would be opposed
to not going through the procedure of picking a jury and doing
opening statements given the fact that I have decided to grant the
defendant's motion for nonsuit as I read their brief in terms of the
website not being subject to the ADA." (Italics added.)
When the court asked Martinez's counsel whether he agreed with its comments
about the procedure, counsel responded:
"[I]t is my understanding that the Court is sua sponte granting a
nonsuit on the basis that the Court has determined, as a matter of
law, that neither the Unruh Act nor the Americans with Disabilities
Act applies to a website as alleged here, which is a website that is in
a nexus to a physical building. [¶] With that being the case, I agree
that it would be futile to proceed in that the Court has determined
that as a matter of law. We would simply ask that for purposes of
creating a complete record for appeal, that the court receive and
accept the trial briefs that were filed herein." (Italics added.)
After defense counsel agreed with this description, the court said it would prepare a brief
order that would be "pretty much very similar to the defense brief on this point."
Several days later, the court issued an order entitled "Sua Sponte Order Granting
Motion for Nonsuit." (Some capitalization omitted.) The order stated Credit Union's
motion was essentially a challenge to the pleadings, and the court "agreed with the
Defense position . . . [that] the complaint failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a
cause of action." The court then identified the two alternative legal grounds for proving
an Unruh Civil Rights Act violation based on disability discrimination (violation of the
ADA and intentional discrimination), but addressed only the first ground because it said
"Plaintiff has indicated that he intends to proceed solely by proving that Defendant
violated the ADA."
The court then stated its conclusion that Credit Union's website was not subject to
the ADA because the ADA applies only to "a place of public accommodation," and a
website does not constitute a "public accommodation." The court said it was following
the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits holding that the phrase "public
accommodation" means a physical structure, but did not mention the "nexus" theory
adopted by these circuits. The court also quoted an unpublished federal district court
decision from the Eastern District of Virginia, dismissing a visually impaired plaintiff's
action against a credit union for website deficiencies based on the court's conclusion the
ADA did not apply to the website. (Carroll v. Northwest Fed. Credit Union (E.D.Va.,
Jan. 26, 2018, No. 1:17-CV-01205) 2018 WL 2933407, at p. *2 (Northwest).) The court
did not mention (because neither party cited) other federal court decisions reaching
contrary conclusions and upholding a visually impaired plaintiff's action against a credit
union for a defective website on a nexus theory. (See Discussion section, part II.B.)
I. Review Standard
Although the court labeled its "sua sponte" dismissal ruling a "nonsuit," both
parties agree that in substance the court's order reflected a determination on the
sufficiency of Martinez's pleading. We agree with this characterization. The court made
clear it was ruling on the ADA "public accommodations" issue based solely on the
complaint's allegations, and was not considering any proposed evidence or factual
assertions made during the in limine motions hearing or chambers discussion, or in the
parties' trial briefs.
When a court rules on a challenge to a pleading after a complaint and answer have
been filed, the motion is in the nature of a judgment on the pleadings and can be made
before or during trial. (See Stoops v. Abbassi (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 644, 650.) A court
may grant a judgment on the pleadings on its own motion. (Code Civ. Proc., § 438,
subds. (b)(2), (c)(3)(B)(ii).) A motion for judgment on the pleadings " 'performs the
same function as a general demurrer, and [thus] attacks only defects disclosed on the face
of the pleadings or by matters that can be judicially noticed. [Citations.]' " (Burnett v.
Chimney Sweep (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 1057, 1064; see People ex rel. Harris v. Pac
Anchor Transportation, Inc. (2014) 59 Cal.4th 772, 777 (Harris).) The court must
determine whether the complaint states a cause of action assuming all of the alleged facts
are true. (Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp. v. Republic Indemnity Co. (1996) 44
Cal.App.4th 194, 198.)
We review the court's ruling de novo. (Harris, supra, 59 Cal.4th at p. 777;
Rossberg v. Bank of America, N.A. (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 1481, 1490 (Rossberg).) We
do not review the validity of the trial court's reasoning, and must affirm the court's ruling
if it was correct on any legal theory raised by the parties. (Orange Unified School Dist. v.
Rancho Santiago Community College Dist. (1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 750, 757.)
II. Unruh Civil Rights Act
California's Unruh Civil Rights Act provides: "All persons within the jurisdiction
of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their . . . disability . . . are entitled to
the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all
business establishments of every kind whatsoever." (Civ. Code, § 51, subd. (b).) A
plaintiff can recover under the Unruh Civil Rights Act on two alternate theories: (1) a
violation of the ADA (§ 51, subd. (f)); or (2) denial of access to a business establishment
based on intentional discrimination. (See Munson v. Del Taco, Inc. (2009) 46 Cal.4th
661, 670.)
We begin with the ADA violation claim. Because we conclude the court erred in
dismissing the complaint on this theory, we do not reach the issue whether the alleged
intentional discrimination theory also supports the cause of action and/or whether the
court correctly found that Martinez had abandoned this theory for purposes of the
"nonsuit" motion. We are required to reverse if the plaintiff has stated a viable cause of
action on any legal theory, and we do so based on the ADA theory. On remand, Martinez
may also pursue the alternate intentional discrimination claim if it is supported by the
facts and applicable legal principles and the trial court finds there has been no forfeiture.
A. Generally Applicable Legal Principles
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals by
private entities, such as Credit Union. Title III provides: "No individual shall be
discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the
goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of
public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place
of public accommodation." (§ 12182(a), italics added.)
The purpose of this title is " 'to bring individuals with disabilities into the
economic and social mainstream of American life . . . in a clear, balanced, and reasonable
manner.' Congress intended that people with disabilities have equal access to the array of
goods and services offered by private establishments and made available to those who do
not have disabilities. . . ." (Gniewkowski v. Lettuce Entertain You Enters. (W.D.Pa. 2017)
251 F.Supp.3d 908, 916; accord PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin (2001) 532 U.S. 661, 674-675
(PGA Tour).)
To establish a violation, a plaintiff must show: (1) a covered disability; (2) "the
defendant is a private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public
accommodation; and (3) the plaintiff was denied public accommodations by the
defendant because of [the] disability." (Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc. (9th Cir. 2007) 481
F.3d 724, 730, italics added; accord, Brown v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp., Inc. (D.C. Cir.
2015) 789 F.3d 146, 151; Ariz. ex rel. Goddard v. Harkins Amusement Enters. (9th Cir.
2010) 603 F.3d 666, 670; see § 12182(a), (b).)
It is undisputed that Martinez alleged a covered disability, and the Credit Union's
physical buildings are "places of public accommodations" within the meaning of the
ADA. (§ 12182(a).) But Martinez alleges he was discriminated against based on barriers
on Credit Union's website, not at one of its buildings. Thus, the issue before us is
whether the website qualifies as a place of public accommodation.
The ADA defines the phrase "place of public accommodation" by enumerating 12
categories of covered "places" and "establishments," giving non-exclusive examples of
types of enterprises falling into each category.3 (§ 12181(7)(A)-(L); Suvino v. Time
Warner Cable Inc. (S.D.N.Y., Aug. 31, 2017, No. 16 CV 7046-LTS-BCM) 2017 WL
3834777, at p. *1; see PGA Tour, supra, 532 U.S. at pp. 676-677; National Ass'n of the

3 These categories are: "(A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging . . . .
[¶ . . . ¶] (B) a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink; [¶ . . . ¶]
(C) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition or
entertainment; [¶ . . . ¶] (D) an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place
of public gathering; [¶ . . . ¶] (E) a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store,
shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment; [¶ . . . ¶] (F) a laundromat, drycleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor,
gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional
office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment; [¶ . . . ¶] (G) a
terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation; [¶ . . . ¶] (H) a
museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection; [¶ . . . ¶] (I) a
park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation; [¶ . . . ¶] (J) a nursery,
elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of
education; [¶ . . . ¶] (K) a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food
bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and [¶ . . . ¶] (L) a
gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or
recreation." (§ 12181(7)(A)-(L).)
Deaf v. Netflix, Inc. (D.Mass. 2012) 869 F.Supp.2d 196, 201 (Netflix).) The listed
examples mainly reference physical locations. The implementing regulations similarly
define a public accommodation by referring to a "facility," which is in turn defined as "all
or any portion of buildings, structures, sites, complexes, equipment, rolling stock . . . or
other real or personal property, including the site where the building, property, structure,
or equipment is located." (28 C.F.R. § 36.104.)
A website is not identified in any of the statutory categories. This is not surprising
as there were no commercial websites when the ADA was enacted in 1990. But in the 30
years since, websites have become central to American life. They are widely used by
both consumers and businesses to communicate information and conduct transactions,
and are now essential tools in conducting daily affairs.4 Thus, the issue whether websites
are subject to ADA requirements has been the subject of a growing number of lawsuits,
judicial attention, and academic commentary. (See Daniel Sorger, Writing the Access
Code: Enforcing Commercial Web Accessibility Without Regulations Under Title III of
the Americans with Disabilities Act (2018) 59 B.C. L.Rev. 1121; see also Alissa Carter
Verson, A New Era of Accessibility: Website Compliance with the Americans with
Disabilities Act (2019) 32 DCBA Brief 14; Abrar & Dingle, From Madness to Method:
The Americans with Disabilities Act Meets the Internet (2009) 44 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L.Rev.

4 During the current pandemic, the Internet and websites have become even more
critical, but we consider the issues before us based on circumstances at the time they
arose, in 2017.
The regulatory agency charged with implementing the ADA (the Department of
Justice (DOJ)) has previously endorsed the applicability of Title III to " 'Web sites of
public accommodations,' " but has not provided specific regulatory guidance. (Robles v.
Domino's Pizza, LLC (9th Cir. 2019) 913 F.3d 898, 903, 906-907, 910 (Robles); Reed v., Inc. (E.D.N.Y. 2018) 327 F.Supp.3d 539, 549-550; Gorecki
v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (C.D.Cal., June 15, 2017, No. CV 17-1131-JFW(SKX)) 2017
WL 2957736, at pp.*4-*5.)5
And the courts have reached different conclusions on the issue whether a website
is a public accommodation. The federal courts have expressed two main views. The
different views stem primarily from the extent to which the court adheres to the express
statutory language or whether it finds legislative history and intent to be paramount
One view (the minority view) is that websites are "public accommodations" within
the meaning of the ADA. This approach has been adopted by courts in the First, Second,
and Seventh Circuits. (National Ass'n of the Deaf v. Harvard University (D.Mass. 2019)

5 In 2010, the DOJ issued an "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" on web
accessibility to clarify private entities' " 'obligations to make websites accessible' "
(Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at p. 903), and the DOJ has also filed statements of interest and
amicus briefs in Title III cases supporting ADA website applicability (Gorecki, supra,
2017 WL 2957736, at p. *4; see Gil v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc. (S.D.Fla. 2017) 242
F.Supp.3d 1315, 1316-1317 (Gil)). But the DOJ has not issued specific regulations, and
in 2017, withdrew its proposed website rule. (Robles, at p. 910.) In explaining the
withdrawal, the DOJ stated it " 'continue[s] to assess whether specific technical standards
are necessary and appropriate to assist covered entities with complying with the ADA.' "
(Id. at p. 909.)
377 F.Supp.3d 49, 57-59 (Harvard); Gil, supra, 242 F.Supp.3d at pp. 1318-1319; see
Carparts Distrib. Ctr. v. Automotive Wholesaler's Ass'n (1st Cir. 1994) 37 F.3d 12, 19-20
(Carparts); Netflix, supra, 869 F.Supp.2d at pp. 201-203; Doe v. Mutual of Omaha Ins.
Co. (7th Cir. 1999) 179 F.3d 557, 559; Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago v. Uber
Technologies, Inc. (N.D.Ill. 2018) 351 F.Supp.3d 1141, 1155-1156; Pallozzi v. Allstate
Life Ins. Co. (2nd Cir. 1999) 198 F.3d 28, 32; Andrews v. Blick Art Materials, LLC
(E.D.N.Y. 2017) 268 F.Supp.3d 381, 390-393 (Andrews); National Federation of the
Blind v. Scribd Inc. (D.Vt. 2015) 97 F.Supp.3d 565, 567-576 (Scribd).)
Courts adopting this view have relied on the "service establishment[s]" category of
the statutory definition, and particularly the fact that "travel service" is contained in the
illustrative list of these establishments (§ 12181(7)(F); see fn. 3, ante), suggesting that
Congress must have contemplated a public accommodation would "include providers of
services which do not require a person to physically enter an actual physical structure."
(Carparts, supra, 37 F.3d at p. 19; see Scribd, supra, 97 F.Supp.3d at p. 572.) The
Carparts court observed, "[i]t would be irrational to conclude that persons who enter an
office to purchase services are protected by the ADA, but persons who purchase the same
services over the telephone or by mail are not. Congress could not have intended such an
absurd result." (Carparts, at p. 19; see Andrews, supra, 268 F.Supp.3d at p. 396; Scribd,
at pp. 572-573.)
These courts have also emphasized the critical nature of websites for transacting
business in one's daily life, and that Congress made clear its intention that the ADA adapt
to changes in technology. (See Andrews, supra, 268 F.Supp.3d at p. 395 [ADA's " 'broad
mandate' " and its " 'comprehensive character' are resilient enough to keep pace with the
fact that the virtual reality of the Internet is almost as important now as physical reality
alone was when the statute was signed into law."]; Scribd, supra, 97 F.Supp.3d at p. 575
["excluding disabled persons from access to covered entities that use [websites] as their
principal means of reaching the public would defeat the purpose of this important civil
rights legislation"]; Netflix, supra, 869 F.Supp.2d at p. 200 ["In a society in which
business is increasingly conducted online, excluding businesses that sell services through
the Internet from the ADA would run afoul of the purposes of the ADA" in that it would
prevent "individuals with disabilities" from "fully enjoy[ing] the goods, services,
privileges and advantages available indiscriminately to other members of the general
public."]; Del-Orden v. Bonobos, Inc. (S.D.N.Y., Dec. 20, 2017, No. 17 CIV. 2744
(PAE)) 2017 WL 6547902, at p. *9 ["Congress's purposes in adopting the ADA would be
frustrated were the term 'public accommodation' given a narrow application, under which
access to the vast world of Internet commerce would fall outside the statute's
protection."]; see also H.R.Rep. No. 101-485(II), at p. 108 (1990), reprinted in 1990
U.S.C.C.A.N. at pp. 303, 391 ["The Committee intends that the types of accommodation
and services provided to individuals with disabilities, under all of the titles of this bill,
should keep pace with the rapidly changing technology of the times."].)
The second view (the majority view) is that websites are not "public
accommodations" under the ADA, but a denial of equal access to a website can support
an ADA claim if the denial has prevented or impeded a disabled plaintiff from equal
access to, or enjoyment of, the goods and services offered at the defendant's physical
facilities. This view has been adopted by courts in the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh
Circuits. (Gil, supra, 242 F.Supp.3d at p. 1319; see Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at pp. 905-
906;6 Menkowitz v. Pottstown Mem'l Med. Ctr. (3rd Cir. 1998) 154 F.3d 113, 122
(Menkowitz); Mahoney v. Bittrex, Inc. (E.D.Pa., Jan. 14, 2020, No. CV 19-3836) 2020
WL 212010, at p. *2 (Mahoney); Parker v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. (6th Cir. 1997)
121 F.3d 1006, 1010-1014 (Parker); Castillo v. Jo-Ann Stores, LLC (N.D.Ohio 2018)
286 F.Supp.3d 870, 876-881 (Castillo); Haynes v. Dunkin' Donuts, LLC (11th Cir. 2018)
741 Fed. Appx. 752, 754 (Haynes); Gomez v. General Nutrition Corp. (S.D.Fla. 2018)
323 F.Supp.3d 1368, 1375 (General Nutrition); see also Rendon v. Valleycrest Prods.,
Ltd. (11th Cir. 2002) 294 F.3d 1279, 1284-1286.)
The courts adopting this narrower statutory definition of a "public
accommodation" have relied on Congress's explicit listing of the type of places
considered to be "public accommodations," and have emphasized that essentially all of
these categories describe a physical location. (§ 12181(7)(A)-(L); see Parker, supra, 121
F.3d at pp. 1010-1014; Weyer, supra, 198 F.3d at p. 1114.) With respect to section
12181(7)(F)'s identification of "service establishment[s]" such as a "travel service," these
courts have noted that under the statutory construction canon "noscitur a sociis," a
statutory term must be construed in the context of the accompanying words, thus

6 In recently applying this standard, the Ninth Circuit adhered to its earlier decision
finding a public accommodation is a physical building (absent a "nexus") (see Weyer v.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. (9th Cir. 2000) 198 F.3d 1104, 1115 (Weyer)), but left
open the issue whether it would be receptive to adopting a broader view. (Robles, supra,
913 F.3d at pp. 905-906 & fn. 6.)
supporting that a "travel service" also identifies a physical place. (Parker, at p. 1014; see
Weyer, 198 F.3d at p. 1114; Ford v. Schering-Plough Corp. (3rd Cir. 1998) 145 F.3d 601,
613-614 (Ford); see also Magee v. Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc. (5th Cir. 2016)
833 F.3d 530, 534-535; Harvard, supra, 377 F.Supp.3d at pp. 59-60.)
But these courts also recognize that a website can be important to providing access
to a defendant's public accommodation (physical premises) and to a disabled person's
ability to use and enjoy services provided at those places, and thus to the extent barriers
on the website impinges on the plaintiff's ability to access such benefits at a physical
premises, the claim can be actionable under a nexus theory. (See Robles, supra, 913 F.3d
at pp. 904-906; Gil, supra, 242 F.Supp.3d at pp. 1320-1321; National Federation of the
Blind v. Target Corp. (N.D.Cal. 2006) 452 F.Supp.2d 946, 951-956 (Target); Gomez v.
Bang & Olufsen Am., Inc., (S.D.Fla., Feb. 2, 2017, No. 1:16-CV-23801) 2017 WL
1957182, at p. *3.) The rationale underlying the adoption of this nexus standard mirrors
many of the public policies discussed by the courts in adopting the broader view that all
websites are directly subject to the ADA, e.g., that Congress would have intended this
result given the growing importance of websites for consumers and businesses. (See
Target, at p. 955 [contrary interpretation would "effectively read[ ] out of the ADA the
broader provisions enacted by Congress"].)
The first California appellate decision on the ADA website-coverage issue was
filed while this appeal was pending. (Thurston v. Midvale Corp. (2019) 39 Cal.App.5th
634 (Thurston).) In Thurston, a blind woman sued a restaurant for disability
discrimination under the Unruh Civil Rights Act for maintaining a website that was
incompatible with her screen reading software. (Id. at pp. 636-638.) The Thurston court
upheld a summary judgment in the plaintiff's favor on her ADA violation claim based on
the majority nexus theory, and thus found it unnecessary to reach whether it agreed with
the more expansive view that all websites are "public accommodations" under the ADA.7
(Id. at pp. 642-646.) In adopting the nexus standard, the court noted that neither the
United States Supreme Court nor California Supreme Court have ruled on the issue and
in the absence of such controlling authority, a California Court of Appeal may " 'make an
independent determination of federal law.' " (Id. at p. 640.)
B. Analysis
Martinez argues that this court should adopt the broader view that a website falls
within the ADA's definition of a public accommodation as a matter of law and therefore
his complaint satisfies the public accommodation element of his ADA claim. Martinez
alternatively urges us to reverse the judgment based on a finding that he has sufficiently
alleged facts to come within the nexus theory.

7 The Thurston court identified a third view—that even with a showing of a nexus, a
plaintiff cannot recover for unequal access to a website—citing the Third Circuit's
decision in Ford, supra, 145 F.3d 601. (See Thurston, supra, 39 Cal.App.5th at p. 640.)
However, a close reading of the Ford decision and later authority clarifies that the Third
Circuit follows the majority nexus view. (See Mahoney, supra, 2020 WL 212010, at
p. *2 [" 'Third Circuit has held . . . the ADA applies to services and privileges of a place
of public accommodation as long as there is "some nexus between the services or
privileges denied and the physical place . . . as a public accommodation." ' "]; Walker v.
Sam's Oyster House, LLC (E.D.Pa., Sept. 18, 2018, No. CV 18-193) 2018 WL 4466076,
at p. *2; McGann v. Cinemark USA, Inc. (3rd Cir. 2017) 873 F.3d 218, 229; Menkowitz,
supra, 154 F.3d at pp. 120, 122; see also Target, supra, 452 F.Supp.2d at p. 954.)
Credit Union counters that we should determine a website is not a public
accommodation as a matter of law and reject the nexus theory (arguing Thurston was
wrongly decided), and thus determine Martinez cannot state a claim under any factual
circumstances. Credit Union alternatively contends that if the nexus theory is applicable,
Martinez's alleged facts do not bring his case within that theory.
We first find unmeritorious Credit Union's position that we should reject the nexus
theory. Credit Union cites no relevant authority supporting this position. As discussed,
virtually all of the courts adopting the majority view that a website is not a "public
accommodation" under the ADA have also recognized ADA Title III liability can attach
if the plaintiff shows a connection between the alleged disability discrimination on a
website and the plaintiff's ability to access and/or enjoy the benefits of the entity's
physical location.
Northwest, supra, 2018 WL 2933407, relied upon by the trial court and Credit
Union, does not support a contrary rule. In dismissing the visually impaired plaintiff's
claim against a credit union for ADA website deficiencies, the Northwest court did not
discuss or even mention the nexus standard, and instead relied on another district court
decision holding that a chatroom was not a " 'place of public accommodation' " because it
was not a physical space. (Id. at p. *2, citing Noah v. AOL Time Warner, Inc. (E.D. Va.
2003) 261 F.Supp.2d 532.) However, because there was no claim in Noah that the chat
room had any nexus to a physical facility, the Noah court did not reach the nexus issue.
Accordingly, neither Northwest nor Noah provides useful guidance on the nexus issue.
We agree instead with each of the courts specifically addressing the issue that the
nexus test governs if the ADA is construed to define a public accommodation to include
only a physical place. (See, e.g., Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at pp. 904-906; Thurston,
supra, 39 Cal.App.5th at pp. 642-644; Gil, supra, 242 F.Supp.3d at pp. 1320-1321.) As
stated by the Thurston court, " ' "The statute applies to the services of a place of public
accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation. To limit the ADA to
discrimination in the provision of services occurring on the premises of a public
accommodation would contradict the plain language of the statute." ' " (Thurston, at
p. 642, quoting Robles, at p. 905.) Moreover, a narrower construction would defeat the
purposes of the ADA. "The ADA is a remedial statute and as such should be construed
broadly to implement its fundamental purpose of eliminating discrimination against
individuals with disabilities." (Thurston, at pp. 642-643.) We would be undermining this
purpose if we were to conclude that under no circumstances can discrimination on a
website be actionable regardless of the connection between the discrimination and the
place of public accommodation.
The nexus rule is further consistent with the ADA provision requiring an entity to
provide "auxiliary aids" necessary to ensuring equal access for disabled individuals.
(§ 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).) The implementing regulation requires that a "public
accommodation . . . take those steps that may be necessary to ensure that no individual
with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently
than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services, unless the
public accommodation can demonstrate that taking those steps would fundamentally alter
the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations
being offered or would result in an undue burden, i.e., significant difficulty or expense."
(28 C.F.R. § 36.303(a), italics added.) The regulation further clarifies that a public
accommodation must "furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary
to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities." (28 C.F.R.
§ 36.303(c)(1), italics added.) Under this rule, "auxiliary aids and services" include
"accessible electronic and information technology" and "other effective methods of
making visually delivered materials available to individuals who are blind or have low
vision." (28 C.F.R. § 36.303(b)(2).) The regulation identifies a "screen reader" as an
"[e]xample[ ]" of an "auxiliary aid." (Ibid.)
These federal mandates requiring that a "public accommodation" ensure that its
services are communicated and made available to disabled persons including by technical
means (absent undue burdens or changes to the fundamental nature of the business)
strongly support the application of the nexus theory if a public accommodation is defined
as a physical place, i.e., that courts must consider the connection between a public
accommodation and its website when evaluating whether the ADA applies to deficiencies
on a website that make it more difficult for a disabled person to access the defendant's
products and services.
Having found the nexus theory applicable if a public accommodation is defined as
a physical place, we next turn to the issue whether Martinez alleged sufficient facts to
trigger liability under the nexus theory.
The courts have not been consistent in defining the scope of the nexus
requirement. (See General Nutrition, supra, 323 F.Supp.3d at p. 1375 ["While courts
agree a nexus is necessary, few have defined the nexus precisely."].) But most courts
have interpreted the requirement broadly to conclude that a plaintiff has made the
requisite showing if the facts show the website "connect[s] customers to the goods and
services of [the defendant's] physical" place. (Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at pp. 905-906;
Thurston, supra, 39 Cal.App.5th at pp. 644-646; see General Nutrition, at p. 1376; see
also Castillo, supra, 286 F.Supp.3d at pp. 878-881.) We agree with this standard.
Because the nexus test presupposes that Congress did not intend ADA to apply directly to
a website, courts applying the nexus test consider whether the alleged website
deficiencies impinge on the plaintiff's ability to have equal access to, and enjoyment of,
the products and services offered at the physical location. This standard requires a court
to focus on the connection between the website and the goods and services offered by the
Robles and Thurston both applied this standard to uphold a visually impaired
plaintiff's ADA claim against a restaurant. The Robles court found the plaintiff alleged
sufficient facts to show the requisite nexus in her action against Domino's Pizza based on
allegations that Domino's website (and related "app") permitted the customer to find the
location of the nearest restaurant and is the primary means of ordering pizzas "to be
picked up at or delivered from Domino's restaurants." (Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at
p. 905.) The Thurston court found the nexus test was satisfied by facts showing the
restaurant's website provided consumers with the opportunity to review the menu and
make a reservation, which the court found expedited the customer's ability to obtain the
benefits of the restaurant's physical facility. (Thurston, supra, 39 Cal.App.5th at pp. 638,
645-646.) Thurston explained these website features "speed[ ] up" the customer's
"experience at the physical location" and thus facilitate the use and enjoyment of the
services offered at the restaurant. (Id. at p. 645.) The court further stated the nexus test
was met even though the website was not necessarily an "extension" of the restaurant's
physical services (id. at pp. 644-645) because, as in Robles, "the website connects
customers to the services of the restaurant" (id. at p. 646, italics added).
Closer to the circumstances here, three federal district courts found the nexus test
was satisfied in an action by a visually impaired plaintiff against a credit union for a
website containing defects similar to those alleged here. (See Carroll v. FedFinancial
Federal Credit Union (E.D.Va. 2018) 324 F.Supp.3d 658 (FedFinancial); Jones v. Fort
McPherson Credit Union (N.D.Ga. 2018) 347 F.Supp.3d 1351 (Fort McPherson); Jones
v. Piedmont Plus Federal Credit Union (N.D.Ga. 2018) 335 F.Supp.3d 1278 (Piedmont
In FedFinancial, the court found the nexus test satisfied based on the plaintiff's
allegations that the credit union's website "is a service of Defendant's physical, brick and
mortar location," and " 'provides access to [the credit union's] array of services,
privileges, advantages, and accommodations including, but not limited to, a branch
locator for the [credit union's] facility, shared branch locations, and ATMs so that a
potential customer may determine from the website the closest location for them to visit,
descriptions of its types of banking services and accounts, online banking and bills pay
services, loan information and documents, location service hours, special offers, an
''About" page so that users may determine [the credit union's] services . . . and
qualifications for membership.' Plaintiff . . . also alleged that the access barriers on
Defendant's website . . . prevented him from . . . visiting Defendant's physical location."
(FedFinancial, supra, 324 F.Supp.3d at pp. 666-667.)
In finding these allegations sufficient, the FedFinancial court rejected the credit
union's argument that the nexus test was not met because the plaintiff did not allege he
was " 'require[d] . . . to do business with [the credit union] only over its website' " or that
the use of the website was "necessary . . . to facilitate the use of the [credit union's] brickand-mortar places." (FedFinancial, supra, 324 F.Supp.3d at p. 667.) The court reasoned
that the credit union was "mischaracteriz[ing] the harm alleged by Plaintiff. Plaintiff has
alleged that the accessibility barriers on Defendant's website prevent him from acquiring
full information about Defendant's services. . . . And Defendant's argument ignores the
fact that Plaintiff has been denied equal access to information that would enable him to
visit Defendant's brick-and-mortar location." (Ibid.)
In Fort McPherson, the court likewise found the nexus test satisfied based on the
plaintiff's allegations that the credit union's website "allows users to find the physical
location of Defendant's facility, provides information about Defendant's services
(including twelve online calculators), advantages, accommodations, and amenities, and
enables visitors to the website to 'pre-shop' before visiting the physical location to
purchase a mortgage." (Fort McPherson, supra, 347 F.Supp.3d at p. 1354.) Similarly,
the Piedmont Plus court found the nexus test was satisfied based on the plaintiff's
allegations that the website provides " 'information concerning [Defendant's] locations it
operates [and] information and descriptions of its amenities and services, privileges,
advantages, and accommodations,' and it 'allowed users to find the locations for them to
visit.' " (Piedmont Plus, supra, 335 F.Supp.3d at p. 1282.)
Other courts have similarly applied the nexus test to ADA website accessibility
claims asserted against other types of businesses. (See, e.g., Haynes, supra, 741
Fed.Appx. at pp. 753-754 [nexus requirement met based on allegations store's website
allowed customers to locate physical store locations, purchase gift cards online, and
access information about goods and services and accommodations of the donut shops];
Gil, supra, 242 F.Supp.3d at pp. 1320-1321 [finding blind plaintiff satisfied nexus theory
by alleging grocery/pharmacy chain's website allows customers to locate physical store
locations and fill/refill prescriptions for in-store pickup or delivery]; General Nutrition,
supra, 323 F.Supp.3d at pp. 1375-1376 [nexus test met where website "operates as a
gateway to physical stores," including that "website . . . provid[es] a store locater";
permit[s] customers to "purchase products remotely"; and provides "information about
store" and "product promotions and deals"].)
Guided by these decisions and the policies underlying the nexus standard, we
determine Martinez's allegations are sufficient to bring his case within this standard.
Martinez alleged the manner in which the Credit Union's website was formatted
precluded him from using his screen reading software to allow him to read the website's
content. He alleged this defect precluded him from determining what is on the website,
looking for the Credit Union locations, "check[ing] out" the services, and determining
which location to visit. He alleged that he could not "effectively browse for Defendant's
locations, products and services online." He claimed that if the website were accessible,
he could "independently investigate services and products, and find the locations to visit
via Defendant's website as sighted individuals can and do."
These allegations are sufficient to show the requisite nexus between the website
and Credit Union's physical locations. As in Robles, Thurston, FedFinancial, Fort
McPherson, and Piedmont Plus, the allegations support that Credit Union's website
connects customers to the goods and services offered at Credit Union's physical locations.
Although the Domino's website in Robles was more heavily integrated with the physical
locations than what is alleged here because it was a critical tool for ordering the product
(a pizza), Martinez's allegations are similar to the allegations found sufficient to establish
a nexus in Thurston, FedFinancial, Fort McPherson, and Piedmont Plus. In each of
those cases, the website was not necessary to obtaining the goods and services offered by
the defendant, but it facilitated the customer's experience by providing information and
making it easier (faster, more efficient, and/or more effective) for the customer to locate
the physical facility and to understand and access the products and services offered at the
defendant's location. Similarly here, Martinez alleged the Credit Union's website permits
the customer to research and prepare before going to the physical facility, including to
make informed decisions about its products and services and thus to have full and equal
access to the entity's offerings.
To the extent Martinez's pleading was not as detailed as in FedFinancial, Fort
McPherson, and Piedmont Plus, Credit Union never brought a timely pleading challenge
that would have permitted Martinez the opportunity to amend his complaint to provide
more detail. The record supports that Credit Union had the full opportunity to conduct
discovery to obtain more specific information on the allegations and relevant factual
issues. Thus, any challenge now to the lack of specificity in the complaint is unavailing.8
Arguing the allegations do not satisfy the nexus standard, Credit Union relies on
Price v. Everglades College, Inc. (M.D.Fla., July 16, 2018, 6:18-cv-492-Orl-31GJK)
2018 WL 3428156 (Everglades), in which the federal district court found the plaintiff's
allegations were insufficient to show the required nexus. There, the visually impaired
plaintiff alleged the defendant's administrator told him he could find information about
the college on the website, but when he went to the website, it was not compatible with
screen reading software, thus allegedly preventing him from learning about the
application process; researching available degree types, prerequisites, and course
descriptions; viewing the course catalog; and obtaining information about living
arrangements that could accommodate his disability. (Id. at p. *1.)
In finding these allegations inadequate to establish the required nexus, the court
relied on two other unpublished Eleventh Circuit district court decisions that
distinguished between "an inability to use a website to gain information about a physical
location" from the "inability to use a website that impedes access to enjoy a physical

8 We note "[w]hether a particular facility is a 'public accommodation' under the
ADA is a question of law." (Jankey v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. (C.D.Cal.
1998) 14 F.Supp.2d 1174, 1178.) On remand, the court's determination on this issue will
depend on proof of Martinez's allegations.
location," and had found the former to be " 'insufficient to state a claim.' " (Everglades,
supra, 2018 WL 3428156, at p. *2.) The Everglades court stated "a contrary finding
would require all websites with any nexus to a physical public accommodation to be
formatted in such a way that they are accessible to screen reader software," and that, as
with other courts, it was "unwilling to take a leap with such far-reaching implications."
(Ibid.) The court further found the plaintiff alleged "only facts indicating that his ability
to gain information about the location, rather than his access to enjoyment of the
university itself, was compromised," noting "the Plaintiff does not claim that he was
unable to apply to the university, pay tuition, or use the student portal on the website."
We are unconvinced by Everglades's reasoning. First, the plaintiff's allegations
did reflect his inability to obtain critical information necessary to decide whether to apply
and/or enroll in the college, and thus, in our view, the allegations supported that the
website deficiencies precluded his " 'access to enjoy the physical university.' "
(Everglades, supra, 2018 WL 3428156, at pp. *1-*2.) Second, the Everglades court
based its holding on its conclusion that a plaintiff must allege the challenged website is a
necessary tool for obtaining access to the college's facilities. This rule is contrary to the
majority position and would improperly exclude ADA coverage for many vital services
that aid in connecting individuals to a business's physical site. Third, we find
unpersuasive the Everglades court's concern that broadly interpreting the nexus standard
would mean "all websites with any nexus to a physical public accommodation" would be
required to be accessible to screen reader software. (Id. at p. *2.) The fact that many
disabled plaintiffs challenging an inaccessible website would be successful in showing
the required nexus derives from the fact that websites often provide important tools to
connect customers to a physical place. That is a primary reason for many websites.
Depriving a person with a covered disability from access to such an essential amenity is
precisely the inequity the ADA was enacted to prevent.
Because we have concluded Martinez's allegations were sufficient to satisfy the
nexus standard, we do not reach the legal issue whether the ADA applies to websites
even without a nexus to a physical place. We must reverse a judgment on the pleadings if
the plaintiff has stated a cause of action on any legal theory (Rossberg, supra, 219
Cal.App.4th at p. 1490), and an appellate court generally will not address an issue
unnecessary to the resolution of the appeal (Young v. Three for One Oil Royalties (1934)
1 Cal.2d 639, 647-648; Oxbow Carbon & Minerals, LLC v. Dept. of Industrial
Relations (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 538, 552, fn. 11; see Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at p. 905,
fn. 6 [declining to decide broader issue where requisite nexus found]; Thurston, supra, 39
Cal.App.5th at p. 644 [same]).
C. Other Asserted Grounds for Affirming the Dismissal of the Complaint
Credit Union contends that if we find Martinez sufficiently alleged that the ADA
applies to its website, we should affirm the dismissal on the ground that courts have no
jurisdiction to require a private entity to alter its website to comply with the ADA
because the United States Congress has the exclusive role to establish website standards,
and Congress has not established such standards. Credit Union maintains that "if
Congress intended to regulate the [I]nternet" to require visually impaired individuals to
be able to "read" websites, "it should have spoken clearly on the subject," and that "[i]t is
inappropriate for the Court—almost 27 years after the passage of the ADA—to announce
sudden, new regulation of an industry (online commerce) that has existed for years."
The argument is factually and legally unsupported.
First, Martinez is not asking the trial court to impose a "sudden" or "new"
regulation on the "online commerce" industry. The statutory and regulatory rules have
long mandated that a "public accommodation" ensure that its online services are made
available to disabled persons (absent undue burdens or changes to the fundamental nature
of the business). (See Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at p. 907 ["at least since 1996 Domino's
has been on notice that its online offerings must effectively communicate with its
disabled customers and facilitate 'full and equal enjoyment' of Domino's goods and
services"]; see also Target, supra, 452 F.Supp.2d at p. 956 [court holding in 2006 that
national retailer's website may violate Title III if its inaccessibility "impedes the full and
equal enjoyment of goods and services offered" at its stores].) Consistent with this
conclusion, the existing DOJ regulations state a public accommodation must provide
"auxiliary aids and services" to ensure "effective communication" with disabled persons
(28 C.F.R. § 36.303(a), (c)(1)), and that these requirements may include "screen reader
software . . . or other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available
to individuals who are blind or have low vision" (28 C.F.R. § 36.303(b)(2)). These
regulations also require this assistance to "be provided in accessible formats, in a timely
manner, and in such a way as to protect the privacy and independence of the individual
with a disability." (28 C.F.R. § 36.303(c)(1)(ii), italics added.)
Additionally, Martinez is not seeking to "regulate" the entire "online commerce"
industry. Rather, he seeks an injunction requiring Credit Union to "take the steps
necessary" to make its own website "accessible to and usable by visually-impaired
individuals," and limits any requested remedial measures to $50,000.
Further, we find unavailing Credit Union's legal contention that the alleged defects
in its website can be remedied only by Congress's enactment of a specific website
accessibility standard. The argument is inconsistent with the fundamental principle that a
legislature has the authority to enact general laws and delegate enforcement issues to a
regulatory body and/or to leave it to the judicial branch to interpret the law and determine
whether the party has complied in the particular case. (See Marbury v. Madison (1803) 5
U.S. 137, 177 [discussing role of the judiciary under separation of powers, and
concluding "[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say
what the law is"].) This is particularly true with respect to the ADA, which often requires
a flexible approach to enforcement. (Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at p. 908.) " '[T]he ADA
and its implementing regulations are intended to give public accommodations maximum
flexibility in meeting the statute's requirements. This flexibility is a feature, not a bug,' "
of the statutory scheme. (Ibid.; see Andrews, supra, 268 F.Supp.3d at p. 403 [ADA's
antidiscrimination standards "are meant to be applied contextually and flexibly"].)
Credit Union relies on Marsh v. Edwards Theater Circuit, Inc. (1976)
64 Cal.App.3d 881 for a rule that only a legislature can determine appropriate
accessibility standards. Marsh is inapposite. Marsh involved architectural barriers
(theatre seating) that existed long before the laws requiring enhanced protections for
disabled individuals, and the court interpreted statutes applicable before the enactment of
the ADA and before the current version of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. (Id. at pp. 886-
892; see Flowers v. Prasad (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 930, 941, fn. 8.)
Credit Union also relies on a line of United States Supreme Court decisions in
which the court found certain administrative rules (arising in other contexts such as
greenhouse gas, tobacco, telephone regulations) to be beyond the agency's delegated
powers. (See, e.g., MCI Telecommunications Corp. v. American Tel. & Tel. Co. (1994)
512 U.S. 218, 231; FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. (2000) 529 U.S. 120,
146; Gonzales v. Oregon (2006) 546 U.S. 243, 267; Util. Air Regulatory Group v. EPA
(2014) 573 U.S. 302.) This issue is not before us because it is undisputed the DOJ has
the delegated authority to promulgate regulations on website accessibility. (§ 12186(b);
see Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at p. 903, fn. 2.) And the fact that the DOJ has not yet issued
specific regulations does not bar the courts from addressing these issues. (Robles, at
pp. 909-911; Thurston, supra, 39 Cal.App.5th at p. 654.)
In this regard, Robles and Thurston recently rejected arguments that a court should
abstain from ruling on an ADA website claim because the DOJ has not identified specific
standards for website accessibility compliance. (Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at pp. 909-911;
Thurston, supra, 39 Cal.App.5th at p. 654.) The Robles court stated: "Our Constitution
does not require that Congress or DOJ spell out exactly how [a private entity] should
fulfill its obligation" that its website provide "effective communication and facilitate 'full
and equal enjoyment' of [its] goods and services to its [disabled] customers . . . ."
(Robles, at p. 909.) The court further observed: "[T]he application of the ADA to the
facts of this case are well within the court's competence. Properly framed, the issues for
the district court to resolve on remand are whether [the defendant's] website and app
provide the blind with auxiliary aids and services for effective communication and full
and equal enjoyment of its products and services. Courts are perfectly capable of
interpreting the meaning of 'equal' and 'effective' and have done so in a variety of
contexts. In addition, if the court requires specialized or technical knowledge to
understand [the plaintiff's] assertions, the parties can submit expert testimony.
[Citations.] Whether [the defendant]'s website and app are effective means of
communication is a fact-based inquiry within a court's competency." (Id. at pp. 910-911.)
We concur with this reasoning. (See Thurston, supra, 39 Cal.App.5th at pp. 654-
655 [agreeing with "the Ninth Circuit's recent rejection of the [abstention] doctrine to a
lawsuit involving a website and app alleged to be inaccessible under the ADA" and
finding the trial court's consideration of issues involving the scope of an injunction "well
within the court's competence to administer"].)
Finally, we comment briefly on Credit Union's lengthy discussion in its appellate
briefs about its subjective concerns with the Accessibility Guidelines (the online
industry's current accessibility standards, sometimes called WCAG 2.0).
First, the discussion is based on facts that are not properly before us. In reviewing
a judgment on the pleadings, we are limited to examining the factual allegations and any
matter for which judicial notice may be taken. (Cloud v. Northrop Grumman
Corp. (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 995, 999.) In challenging the Accessibility Guidelines,
Credit Union relies on facts and sources of information that are not contained in the
pleadings and are outside the appellate record, and for which it never sought judicial
Second, the assertions are not ripe as they concern the remedies issues that the
court has not yet addressed. (See Robles, supra, 913 F.3d at p. 908; Reed v. CVS
Pharmacy, Inc. (C.D.Cal., Oct. 3, 2017, No. CV 17-3877-MWF (SKx)) 2017 WL
4457508, at p. *4.) In his complaint, Martinez alleged the manner in which Credit Union
formats its website prevents "free and full use by blind persons using screen reading
software"; compliance with online industry standards would make Credit Union's website
accessible to blind and visually impaired persons; these "guidelines are successfully
followed by numerous large business entities to ensure their websites are accessible"; and
that without the "basic components" identified in the guidelines, a website will be
inaccessible to a blind or visually impaired person using a screen reader.
These allegations are sufficient to support that if Martinez proves an ADA
violation, there are alleged workable and legally enforceable remedies that would address
the ADA violations. In reaching this conclusion, we do not suggest the Accessibility
Guidelines create a particular legal standard for ADA compliance. But Martinez's
pleading does not seek to impose liability based solely on Credit Union's failure to
comply with the Accessibility Guidelines; rather he seeks to impose liability on the
Credit Union for failing to comply with provisions of the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the
ADA. Although the Guidelines may be admissible for limited purposes, such as showing
the feasibility of remedying the defects in the website or to assist in preparing a workable
injunction if Martinez proves his claim, Martinez's cause of action is not necessarily
dependent on the viability or validity of the Guidelines. (See Thurston, supra, 39
Cal.App.5th at pp. 646-648.) During the hearing on the motions in limine, counsel stated
their intent to present expert testimony on the technical website issues, and the court may
rely on that evidence to determine an appropriate remedy if liability is proven.9
Additionally, to the extent Credit Union is suggesting that any remedy would be
overly burdensome, this argument is not the basis for a pleading challenge. As Credit
Union acknowledged in its trial brief, such claims constitute affirmative defenses. (See
Andrews, supra, 268 F.Supp.3d at p. 404; Brooklyn Center for Independence of Disabled
v. Bloomberg (S.D.N.Y. 2013) 980 F.Supp.2d 588, 657.) Moreover, what is reasonable,
unduly burdensome, or a fundamental alteration depends on the particular facts and
circumstances of the case. (See Andrews, at p. 404; see also Staron v. McDonald's Corp.
(2d Cir. 1995) 51 F.3d 353, 356.)
III. Motions For Judicial Notice
Martinez brought two motions for judicial notice. In the first motion, he asked
that we take judicial notice of (1) the DOJ's Statement of Interest filed in May 2012 in a
case brought by the National Association of the Deaf in a Massachusetts federal district
court (see Netflix, supra, 869 F.Supp.2d at p. 199); and (2) three unpublished Central

9 Many, if not most, of Credit Union's challenges to the Thurston decision involve
its conclusions on remedies and the scope of the issued injunction. That case was at a
different stage than here (granting summary judgment in the disabled plaintiff's favor),
and thus we do not reach these arguments. We likewise do not address Credit Union's
comments about standing issues, which Credit Union admits are not before us on this
appeal. (See Respondent's Brief at p. 36 ["the issue of standing is not presently before
the Court"].)
District of California federal court orders filed in 2014 and 2015 discussing the DOJ's
position on ADA website coverage and/or reflecting the court's adoption of the "nexus"
We decline to take judicial notice of these materials as unnecessary to the
resolution of the appellate issues before us.
With respect to the DOJ's 2012 Statement of Interest, we have already noted
(based on statements in published federal cases) that the DOJ has been historically
generally supportive of ADA website accessibility but has declined to issue specific
regulations (see fn. 5, ante). We do not find that the DOJ's single statement in one
particular case eight years ago adds helpful or material information on this point or to our
With respect to the unpublished federal district court decisions, two of the orders
are available on an online platform (e.g., Westlaw) and therefore judicial notice is
unnecessary. (See Jaramillo v. County of Orange (2011) 200 Cal.App.4th 811, 817-818.)
As reflected in our opinion, we have reviewed various unpublished federal district court
decisions, and can do so without specifically taking judicial notice of each decision.
(Ibid.; see Farm Raised Salmon Cases (2008) 42 Cal.4th 1077, 1096, fn. 18.) With
respect to the third order that is not on an available database, the order does not add
anything material to our analysis. As to this and the other proffered federal district court
orders, we have considered more recent published Ninth Circuit authority on these same
points in reaching our conclusions.
In his second motion, Martinez requests that we take judicial notice of a consent
decree and several settlement agreements in unrelated cases. This motion was untimely
(filed after Credit Union filed its respondent's brief) and contains information
unnecessary to our analysis and determination in this case. We thus decline to grant the

Outcome: Judgment reversed. Respondent Credit Union to bear appellant Martinez's costs
on appeal.

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