Last fall, hundreds of lawsuits were filed in the Southern District of New York alleging that retailers and restaurants that failed to offer gift cards with Braille lettering for sale violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (see a Steptoe summary of this wave of complaints here).

Judge Woods recently decided the first two of these cases:  Dominguez v. Banana Republic and Murphy v. Kohl’s Department Stores.  In both cases, Judge Woods dismissed the complaints for lack of standing and failure to state a claim.  Judge Woods held that a Braille gift card is a specialty good that merchants are not required to stock under the ADA’s implementing regulations.  He further held that the ADA empowers retailers to choose which auxiliary aids they offer, rather than allowing customers to demand a particular aid.

The opinions also take issue with the duplicative “copy and paste” nature of these complaints, which lacked specific allegations sufficient to create standing.  In the Murphy opinion, Judge Woods found that the plaintiff had failed to allege an intent to return to the store where he was denied service.  The opinion notes that:
Continue Reading Judge Woods Tosses First Suits Claiming that ADA Requires Braille Gift Cards (Steptoe Success)

In an opinion today, Judge Failla dismissed as moot an ADA lawsuit accusing the supermarket chain Kroger of operating a website that isn’t accessible for the visually impaired.  Kroger apparently addressed all the issues complained of.  There is a huge body of litigation in this area (see this article and this article, for example), but Judge Failla found that this was one of the rare cases where a mootness defense was raised and was compelling:
Continue Reading Judge Failla Concludes That Kroger’s Updated Website Moots ADA Lawsuit Over Accessibility for Visually Impaired

The 119-page pinion, published this morning, states in the introduction:

This mountain of evidence and argument confirms that planning for, and responding to, emergencies and disasters is a Herculean task, and that, in many — perhaps most — respects, the City has done an outstanding job. But it also reveals that while the City’s emergency preparedness program adequately accommodates the needs of people with disabilities in some respects, it fails to do so in others. Most significantly, the City’s plans are inadequate to ensure that people with disabilities are able to evacuate before or during an emergency; they fail to provide sufficiently accessible shelters; and they do not sufficiently inform people with disabilities of the availability and location of accessible emergency services. Notably, there is no evidence that these failures are a result of intentional discrimination by the City against people with disabilities. But the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the NYCHRL seek to prevent not only intentional discrimination against people with disabilities, but also — indeed, primarily — discrimination that results from “benign neglect.” Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. 287, 301 (1985). Moreover, these laws require that a government entity do more than provide a program on equal terms to those with and without disabilities; they require “affirmative accommodations to ensure that facially neutral rules do not in practice discriminate against individuals with disabilities.” Henrietta D. v. Bloomberg, 331 F.3d 261, 275 (2d Cir. 2003). The evidence shows that the City has not done so in various ways.


Continue Reading Judge Furman Rules That New York City’s Emergency Planning Violates Disability Laws; Orders Parties to Confer on Remedy