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Case Name National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix DR-MA-0005
Docket / Court 11-CV-30168-MAP ( D. Mass. )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Attorney Organization Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Case Summary
The National Association of the Deaf, Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, and a deaf Massachusetts resident belonging to both organizations, brought this case under the Americans with Disabilities Act against Netflix. The plaintiffs alleged that by failing to provide ... read more >
The National Association of the Deaf, Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, and a deaf Massachusetts resident belonging to both organizations, brought this case under the Americans with Disabilities Act against Netflix. The plaintiffs alleged that by failing to provide closed captioned text to its on-demand movie and television streaming service known as "Watch Instantly," Netflix failed to provided full and equal access to the deaf and hard of hearing. The lawsuit was filed June 16, 2011 in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs, represented by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and private co-counsel, sought declaratory relief, an injunction requiring Netflix to provide effective communication through closed captioning and easy identification of captioned content, and attorney's fees and costs.

On November 11, 2011, the court (Judge Michael A. Ponsor) denied the defendant's Motion to Dismiss, because the FCC did not have primary jurisdiction over the case and Netflix's arguments that the there was not a ripe complaint and actual injury were not persuasive. Additionally, the court found Netflix's argument that the case be dismissed or transferred because of a similar case pending in the Northern District of California unpersuasive. 2011 WL 5519883.

On June 19, 2012, Judge Michael A. Posner denied Netflix’s motion for judgement on the pleadings. 869 F.Supp.2d 196. The court rejected Netflix’s argument that the Watch Instantly website was not a place of public accommodation covered by the ADA and agreed with the plaintiffs that the website fell within multiple ADA categories, such as “service establishment,” “place of exhibition or entertainment,” and “rental establishment.” The court also determined that the plaintiffs adequately pled that Netflix owns and operates the Watch Instantly website, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act complemented not supplanted, the ADA, and the new FCC regulation on captioning did not render plaintiffs’ claim moot.

The parties entered into settlement negotiations and submitted a settlement to the district court for its approval on October 10, 2012. Under the settlement, Netflix agreed to provide closed captions on 100% of its streaming content within two years and to improve its interface so that subscribers could more easily identify content that was captioned. Additionally, Netflix agreed to provide training to customer service representatives on handling questions about captioning issues.

The announcement of the settlement explained that Netflix began its closed-captioning program in 2010 and increased captioning for 90% of the hours viewed. Captions were displayed on a majority of the more than 1,000 devices on which the service was available. The court maintained jurisdiction of the case for four years to assure compliance with the terms of the decree, and the plaintiffs monitored Netflix's progress. Netflix agreed to pay $795,000 for past and future attorneys fees and costs, including monitoring costs. The case is now closed.

Denise Heberle - 10/10/2012
Emily Kempa - 02/21/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Reasonable Accommodation
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Training
Defendant-type
Movie Theater or Other Entertainment facility
Retailer
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - privately owned
Effective Communication (ADA)
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
TTY/Close Captioning/Videophone/etc.
Website
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Non-government for profit
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Netflix, Inc.
Plaintiff Description Advocacy groups for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2012 - 2016
Filing Year 2011
Case Closing Year 2016
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
3:11-cv-30168-MAP (D. Mass.)
DR-MA-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
DR-MA-0005-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 19]
DR-MA-0005-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/09/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint (Or in the Alternative, Transfer to the Northern District of California); Memorandum of Points and Authorities [ECF# 22]
DR-MA-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/12/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States of America in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint [ECF# 24]
DR-MA-0005-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/03/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order Regarding Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint [ECF# 32] (2011 WL 5519883) (D. Mass.)
DR-MA-0005-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/10/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Netflix, Inc.'s Notice of Motion and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; Memorandum of Points and Authorities [ECF# 43]
DR-MA-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States of America in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [ECF# 45]
DR-MA-0005-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/15/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [ECF# 46]
DR-MA-0005-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/11/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order Regarding Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [ECF# 52] (2012 WL 2343666) (D. Mass.)
DR-MA-0005-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/19/2012
Consent Decree (D. Mass.)
DR-MA-0005-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/09/2012
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Netflix and National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Reach Historic Agreement to Provide 100% Closed Captions in On-Demand Streaming Content Within Two Years
DR-MA-0005-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/09/2012
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Consent Decree [ECF# 88] (D. Mass.)
DR-MA-0005-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/09/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Ponsor, Michael Adrian (D. Mass.) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0001 | DR-MA-0005-0004 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Davidson, Joshua (California) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Lanvers, Charlotte L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0002 | DR-MA-0005-0008 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Lee, Bill Lann (California) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0002 | DR-MA-0005-0008 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-0012 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Mayerson, Arlene Brynne (California) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0002 | DR-MA-0005-0008 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0010 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-0012 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Netski, Christine M. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0002 | DR-MA-0005-0008 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-0012 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Seligman, Brad (California) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0002 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Wakschlag, Shira T. (California) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0002 | DR-MA-0005-0008 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Worthman, Catha (California) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0002 | DR-MA-0005-0008 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Harper, Jacob M. (California) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0003 | DR-MA-0005-0005 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-9000
McDowell, David F. (California) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0003 | DR-MA-0005-0005 | DR-MA-0005-0009 | DR-MA-0005-0011 | DR-MA-0005-9000
O'Neill, Julie G. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-9000
Other Lawyers Hill, Eve L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0006 | DR-MA-0005-0007
Jacobs, Gretchen E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0006
Maisels, Amanda (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0007 | DR-MA-0005-9000
Nichol, Allison (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0006 | DR-MA-0005-0007
Ortiz, Carmen M. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0006 | DR-MA-0005-0007
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
DR-MA-0005-0006 | DR-MA-0005-0007

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