ATLANTA –– A deaf Florida resident may sue the city of Hallandale Beach for not adding closed captioning to videos on its public website, a federal appeals court ruled.
In a Sept. 27 opinion, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's decision that dismissed Eddie Sierra's lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The three-judge panel found Sierra did not have to lodge a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) before bringing the lawsuit.
In his complaint, Sierra pointed to four websites maintained by the city, which did not provide closed captioning on its online videos. He sought injunctive and declaratory relief for hearing-impaired individuals who wanted to watch the city's video content, such as city commission meetings.
The city argued Sierra did not exhaust other options, such as filing a complaint with the FCC, before bringing the lawsuit. The city pointed to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), which provides a process for disabled people to access new technologies like smart phones, video conferencing and online videos by petitioning the FCC.
A federal judge in South Florida agreed and dismissed Sierra's suit.
But after a review of the law, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found litigants did not have to contact the FCC as a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit under another statute.
"The FCC’s exclusive jurisdiction over complaints brought under the CVAA bears in no way on complaints brought under other statutes," Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote in the opinion.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Miami Florida Division Case number 18-10740