Winn-Dixie: Will They Still Be The Winners?

10 Aug 2021

The Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. case has continued to make headlines in recent months with Gil filing in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a petition for a rehearing en banc after the case had recently been focusing on whether Winn-Dixie’s website is a place of public accommodation covered by the ADA.

The Case History

Gil, who is legally blind and has cerebral palsy, uses a screen reader to access the internet. He initially brought suit against Winn-Dixie in 2016 because he was unable to use the Winn-Dixie website to refill prescriptions, as the website was not compatible with his screen reader.

Gil won the case in June 2017 with an injunction requiring the supermarket chain to make its website accessible for three years.

This decision was however overturned in April 2021, when Eleventh Circuit Judge Elizabeth L. Branch made the verdict saying that a website isn’t a public accommodation, only physical locations are public accommodations under the ADA.

Since then, there have been three requests for the Eleventh Circuit to reconsider the decision. One of the controversies to the case since the beginning of 2020 is that when the case was originally filed, Winn-Dixie were not selling anything online, but since at least March 22, 2020 (opens in a new window), online shopping has been available on the Winn-Dixie website. It seems surprising that this wasn’t taken into consideration in the 4/7/2021 decision.

What’s going to happen next?

The case may well go to a rehearing. There have been three separate formal requests for a rehearing, each one asking for the case to be reheard by all 12 judges of the 11th circuit (as opposed to the three that were on the panel for the 4/7/2021 decision).

One of the weightiest requests has come in the form of an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief (opens in a new window) on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind and nine other disability rights groups, who all agree in supporting Gil’s request for a rehearing.

What have we learnt?

This case has been one of the most talked about ADA cases of recent times and has highlighted gaps in the law which may impact future cases. However, it shouldn’t deter from organizations’ moral obligations to be compliant and not exclude anybody from their website.

Winn-Dixie have made changes to their website over their last few years as Susan V. Warner, who represents Winn-Dixie, commented:

“Since the time of trial, there have been updates to the website, and Winn-Dixie has implemented WCAG 2.0 AA as its web accessibility standard, with the website tested on a periodic basis to ensure compliance,”.

Warner said she couldn’t comment on the case beyond the filing, but acknowledged significant improvements in the store’s online capabilities and access for the visually impaired. (opens in a new window)

We’ve updated our report on our analysis of the Winn-Dixie website following the changes they’ve made to their website, which can be viewed in the below report. (opens in a new window)

We’ll let you make up your own mind on if they are doing enough to not exclude anybody from fully accessing their website.

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