(CN) – JetBlue cannot be sued for having check-in kiosks and a website that are inaccessible to blind people, a federal judge ruled.
The California Council of the Blind and three individuals filed a complaint against JetBlue Airways in August 2010, saying the company’s website and check-in kiosks aren’t accessible to the visually impaired in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Disabled Persons Act and Business & Professions Code.
JetBlue filed a motion to dismiss in October 2010, arguing that federal regulations pre-empt the plaintiffs’ claims and that the case’s application of state law violates the dormant commerce clause of the Constitution. It also said the plaintiffs failed to state a claim or relief.
The airline countered in May 2011 by citing National Federation of the Blind v. United Airlines, a case in which the court found that similar claims were pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act and by the Air Carrier Access Act.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero granted the motion to dismiss in a 24-page ruling.
“A court’s inquiry into federal preemption begins with the assumption that Congress did not intend to preempt state law,” Spero wrote.
“The court finds that website and kiosk accessibility is pervasively regulated so as to justify the inference that Congress intended to exclude state law discrimination claims relating to these amenities,” Spero wrote. “Access to airline websites and kiosks is a narrow field, and the [Department of Transportation] DOT has issued regulations specifically addressing this field.”
“Because the court finds that plaintiffs’ claims are field preempted, the court does not reach the additional issues raised by the parties, including the merits of plaintiffs’ state law claims,” he added.
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