National Federation of the Blind vs. Target - An Important Decision - Posted October 3, 2007.

Yesterday Judge Marilyn Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a ruling in the case in which the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) (http://nfb.org) is suing the Target Corporation alleging that Target's web site, http://www.target.com, is inaccessible, especially for shoppers who are blind. I am the Expert Witness in this case for the Plaintiffs; they are represented by Disabilities Rights Advocates (DRA) (http://dralegal.org). I have written about this important case on these pages before (http://jimthatcher.com/law-target.htm).

You can also read about the decision on the DRA site http://dralegal.org/cases/private_business/nfb_v_target.php.

This ruling does not address the merits of the case, i.e. whether or not the website was inaccessible. Instead the ruling deals with legal issues, essentially agreeing that the class action could move forward to trial both for the national class based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California sub-class based on California State law.

Target sought to have the case dismissed, asserting that they had fixed their web site and that it was now accessible. Judge Patel rejected that request saying that it was well established law that just because a defendant has stopped conduct that is allegedly illegal doesn't mean that his case will be dropped.

Why is the ruling important? First, every avenue that the Target Corporation has taken to try to defuse the case has been turned down; the suit should move forward to be decided on the merits - the accessibility of the Target.com web site, at the time the action was filed (February 2006). Second, as has been suggested to me by someone familiar with the case, the Judge let the complaint move forward based on California laws (The Unruh Civil RIghts Act and the Disabled Persons Act) independent of any physical store. In other words, a resident of California, who saw themselves injured by the inaccessibility of a web site of a U.S. company could sue that company for damages under California law - independent of whether or not there is a related physical store and independent of where the company is located.

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