New York federal court shoots down Braille gift card suit

Hurray! Ruling in a suit against retailer Banana Republic, a New York federal judge has rejected a plaintiff’s claim that issuing gift cards without providing a version in Braille was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Among other theories, the judge ruled that a gift card was not a “place of public accommodation,” and that a law-firm client who had never asked for such a card in the first place could not complain of the lack of an individualized attempt to accommodate the request. The judge also noted as relevant the more general rule that product lines do not have to be made accessible — a bookstore, for example, is free not to deal in Braille editions of books. [Michael Steinberg and Minh Vu, Seyfarth Shaw/JD Supra]

While many other cases are still pending, the ruling could help in finally stopping a tide of abusive litigation I’ve been writing about in this space for a year or more, especially since the judge had stern words for the assembly-line mass-production of such suits for fees.

The lawsuits, which Judge Woods described as “copy-and-paste,” were riddled with mistakes such as listing the address of a Kohl’s store in Manhattan, where it has no outlets, and describing Banana Republic as a “food establishment.”

“Although it features the fruit in its name, Banana Republic does not sell bananas,” the judge wrote in his April 23 opinion.

“‘Our hope is this entire line of cases is shut down, and plaintiffs’ lawyers more generally think twice before blanketing everybody under the sun with meritless lawsuits,’ said Meredith Slawe, a partner with Akin Gump who defends companies against ADA suits.” [Daniel Fisher, Legal Newsline]

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