Juan Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.

Are websites “public accommodations” subject to the rigors of the ADA?

The plaintiff, a long-time Winn-Dixie customer, is legally blind and uses screen reader software which vocalizes webpages and their contents for him. Winn-Dixie operates a website to advertise its products and services.

The Eleventh Circuit noted that Winn-Dixie only offers sales in its physical stores and not through its website. The plaintiff sued Winn-Dixie after his screen reader software was unable to access the Winn-Dixie website.

At first, Florida’s Southern District Court denied Winn-Dixie’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The lower court determined that websites are subject to the ADA if a plaintiff shows a sufficient “nexus” between the website and physical premises. Then, after a bench trial, the lower court ruled that Winn-Dixie’s website violated the ADA and imposed related injunctions to Winn-Dixie regarding its accessibility and employee training.

On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s decision and remanded the case back to the district court. The Eleventh Circuit considered whether websites are places of public accommodation under the ADA. Applying the plain language of the statute, the court found that “public accommodations” include certain lodging, restaurants, bars, theaters and grocery stores. Physical, tangible places only are listed in the statute. Websites and other intangible places are not listed in the statute and, thus, are not public accommodations subject to the ADA. Then, the Eleventh Circuit considered whether the Winn-Dixie website, since it is not a place of public accommodation, otherwise violates the ADA as an “intangible barrier.” The court answered this question in the negative and reasoned that the visually impaired not being able to access the Winn-Dixie website does not create a barrier to accessing the goods, services, privileges or advantages of Winn-Dixie’s physical store.


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2021 is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2021 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.