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Friday, January 11, 2019

The Right to Sue

For John, BLUFThis reminds me of nothing more than the "Voting" lawsuit against Lowell, ongoing.  It is a money making scam for the lawyers.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is the sub-headline:

The ADA litigation monster continues to run amok.

From , by Mark Pulliam January 10, 2019.

Here is the lede plus four:

Is it Beyoncé’s fault that some of her fans are blind?  Is the performer a “public accommodation,” like a hotel, restaurant, or department store?  Is it society’s obligation to rectify all misfortunes in life’s lottery?  These questions may seem silly, but they lie at the heart of a cottage industry of abusive class-action litigation against websites pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a well-intentioned but poorly conceived—and horribly drafted—law that continues to generate unintended consequences decades following its passage in 1990.  Computer users afflicted with various disabilities—blind consumers seem especially litigious—regularly sue companies hosting websites that allegedly aren’t sufficiently “accommodating” of their condition.  Beyoncé and her website (, through her management company, became their latest target.

The federal court complaint naming Beyoncé, as is typical of this predatory genre, is a cookie-cutter document.  Both the plaintiff and her lawyer are serial ADA litigants, sometimes referred to as “ADA trolls.”  Given the lack of any fixed legal standard for “web accessibility,” almost any grievance involving the technical features of a website is litigable, and there is no shortage of contingent-fee lawyers eager to file suit.  The principal requirement: a defendant with deep pockets.  With 22 Grammy awards to her credit, the phenomenally successful Beyoncé qualifies.  She and her husband, rapper Jay-Z, reportedly have a net worth over $1 billion.

Such lawsuits plague merchants engaged in e-commerce, even though the ADA was enacted before the advent of the Internet.  Wheelchair ramps and restroom grab rails are among the accommodations that businesses with physical premises must provide for disabled patrons, pursuant to regulations adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice to implement the ADA.  No such rules exist for websites.  Congress’s silence on the topic has not deterred disabled consumers from filing extortionate lawsuits under the ADA.  Most businesses choose to settle to avoid exorbitant (and unrecoverable) defense costs.

As I’ve pointed out in City Journal, applying the ADA to websites exposes businesses to “the worst of both worlds:  mandates without directions.”  The Beyoncé lawsuit is an example.  She is not a “brick and mortar” establishment.  She is an entertainer—singer, songwriter, actress, and dancer—with a huge social media presence. is primarily a marketing platform to update fans and promote her music and upcoming live shows.  The site, brimming with photos of the star and archived media coverage, also advertises her line of fragrances and peddles some themed swag and inexpensive apparel such as t-shirts and sweats.  It’s basically a cyber fan club.

For plaintiff Mary Connor, a visually impaired New York resident who requires screen-reading software to read website content on her computer, represents nefarious discrimination in violation of Title III of the ADA because it is an exclusively visual interface, making it impossible for Connor and other visually impaired customers to browse the site or make purchases without the assistance of a sighted companion. - In this respect, the website is no different than a newspaper, magazine, or mail-order catalog. Connor’s specific complaint is that she wanted to buy an embroidered hoodie but couldn’t, denying her the “full and equal access to, and enjoyment of, the goods, benefits and services of”  The class-action lawsuit seeks to compel Beyoncé to add features to make the website accessible to blind and visually impaired users, and—of course—to receive “compensatory damages” and attorneys’ fees.  Alternatively, Beyoncé could simply shut down or discontinue selling themed merchandise on the site, inconveniencing millions of her sighted fans—an outcome that apparently does not concern Connor.

It is bad, but not as bad as if there weren't laws and lawyers.  Or as bad as a system were we couldn't sue when we see injustice.  Sue on!

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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