Search Results for ‘braille gift card’

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]

Wave of ADA suits over retailer gift cards lacking Braille version

Over a period of eight days last fall, four law firms and associated clients who had earlier filed hundreds of web accessibility suits in New York launched a new wave of more than 100 putative class actions charging that retailers are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by offering gift cards but failing to provide Braille versions. [Minh N. Vu and John W. Egan, Seyfarth Shaw]

Typically, according to the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), “a successful plaintiff in [a local web accessibility] settlement will receive only $500 per case, but attorney’s fees average many times that amount, approximately $16,000 per case or more, depending on the law firm, the court and other factors, thereby giving plaintiff’s lawyers ample incentive to file as many cases as possible.” One attorney has made about a million dollars a year this way over eight years. “The targets selected by plaintiffs in this new wave run the full gamut of retail establishments, including big box retailers, grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants, clothing brands, and online gaming and other services.” [Ryan P. Phair, M. Brett Burns & Torsten M. Kracht, Hunton Andrews Kurth]

Small business could use some advance funding. Too bad gift cards are a legal mess.

Gift cards make a nice way to support your favorite business during the pandemic shutdown. They also make a compliance trap that can mire that same business in years of expensive hassle. My new piece at Reason explores the many legal exposures, from ADA lawsuits over lack of Braille translation to class actions over fine print and even exposure to money-laundering liability.

One durable problem, in some states at least, is state unclaimed-property law. Thinking of tossing a gift card into a drawer and never using it, as a kind of tip to an enterprise that’s brought you happiness over the years? Depending on what state you live in, you might actually be tipping your state tax authorities, and laying only future legal hassle on the merchant you wanted to help. I’ve covered state unclaimed-property law both here and at Cato. (More on its intersection with gift cards: Michael Waters, The Atlantic last fall.)

Delaware’s ambitious claims over unclaimed property have resulted in pitched courtroom battles for years, only a portion of which has been over gift cards specifically. Last year a jury awarded the state more than $7 million in a triple-damage unused gift card proceeding against just one national retailer, Overstock.com.

The Blue Hen State had to rewrite its unclaimed property law after a 2016 ruling by a federal court found its existing law a violation of due process and concluded that Delaware authorities had “engaged in a game of ‘gotcha’ that shocks the conscience.” The replacement law, which explicitly lays out a claim to gift cards rather than relying on older and more uncertain language, doesn’t have a long track record yet.

ADA and disabled rights roundup