Have you received a demand letter from Canon Law? If so, then you are not alone. We have been forwarded numerous emails and other written correspondence from Canon Law firm, identifying that a lawsuit concerning inaccessibility for blind individuals on a website has been drafted and that it will be filed against upon a failure to respond within a stated number of days. Many of those people have successfully retained us to reply to that correspondence.
If you have received such a letter, then feel free to contact us about your particular issue. We keep all communications confidential, pride ourselves on quick and active responses, and do not charge for initial consultations.
Canon Law is the type of law firm that operates in bulk, trying to find as many targets as possible that may potentially be violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (the ADA). It will claim that one of its clients attempted to access your website, but could not do so because the site is not accessible to visually impaired individuals. Furthermore, Canon Law will commonly state that it has confirmed its client’s claim and documented the complaints.
The letter from Canon Law may also allege that it has spoken with “website accessibility experts” as well as the Department of Justice. Between those purported communications and the Canon Law’s investigation, it probably has taken the position that its client, and those similarly situated to its client, are not receiving equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations offered by your website. Its plan to “work constructively with you” includes your payment of a sum of money to the Canon Law firm in exchange for a release of a lawsuit that it threatens it will bring against you unless you comply with its demands. That lawsuit will likely include citations to state and federal law that you are allegedly violating based on your website’s inaccessibility.
Canon Law will commonly break down its letter into four sections: (1) the access issues on your website; (2) Canon Law’s extensive experience representing individuals with disabilities; (3) the legal basis for its claims that it may bring against you; and (4) the proposed settlement that it seeks to procure in order to avoid the filing of a lawsuit. What the Canon Law firm intentionally avoids discussing are your potential defenses to the specific factual claims contained within its letter.
While it may be true that the ADA requires websites to be coded in a way that they are accessible by people with disabilities, including individuals with blindness, that does not mean that Canon Law’s claims should be taken at face value. In fact, depending on the facts of the case, Canon Law’s case may be frivolous and the firm should be called out on its exploitative practices. Perhaps the biggest issue is that there are no clear accessibility standards for websites under the ADA, despite what Canon Law may want you to believe (so that it can extract a quick settlement of thousands of dollars from you without even paying the filing fees to initiate a lawsuit).
Most important for people who receive these letters from Canon Law or a similar law firm is that the letters are not ignored. Law firms like Canon Law will often initiate lawsuits against unrepresented individuals and people who simply refuse to respond to the demand letters. The response should always be sincere, refrain from admitting to any wrongdoing, and confirm that steps will be taken to further ensure compliance with the ADA.
Hiring a law firm like Heitner Legal will also give you a leg up because you will be able to cite to case law such as the 2021 decision in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal in the case of Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., where the court decided that “websites are not a place of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA” and therefore the plaintiff’s “inability to access and communicate with the website itself is not a violation of Title III.” Understand that a decision like Gil does conflict with prior opinions in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and thus having a knowledgeable lawyer and an understanding of jurisdictional differences is key to defending against the demand letters received from firms like Canon Law.