Latest ADA Website Victory Comes with a Shared Branching Twist

July 11, 2018 at 11:10 am Leave a comment

Sorry for the late blog but my morning got away from me.

As I explained in previous blogs, standing – i.e., the ability to show that you were harmed by the person you are suing- has become a major roadblock for plaintiffs suing credit unions claiming that their websites do not comply with the ADA. For example, in the demand letters I have seen threatening to sue NY credit unions a single disabled person in Long Island is bringing all the claims.

We Long Islanders like to think we live in the center of the universe but that is a bit much even for me. As a result, an increasingly large number of federal courts have dismissed these lawsuits. The courts have concluded that the disabled plaintiffs seeking to sue these credit unions have no standing to make their claims because they are not, and cannot, be members of the credit unions that they are wishing to sue..Our intrepid plaintiff’s attorney was not giving up without a fight. In Mitchell v. Dover-Phila FCU, a federal district court recently dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by a disabled plaintiff who lived 200 miles away from the community served by the credit union he had claimed had injured him.

What makes this case noteworthy, however, is that the plaintiff made an additional argument regarding shared branching. Specifically, he argued that the credit union to which he did belong was a member of a shared branching network with the defendant credit union. As a result, he argued, that even if he was not qualified for membership, he could access credit union services through the shared branching network. This gave him standing. Fortunately for credit unions involved in shared branching, the court rejected his argument. It concluded that shared branching gives members of network credit unions the right to access physical branch locations, but not the right to use a member credit union’s websites. As a result, the member still lacks standing to bring the lawsuit.

This case is also noteworthy for another reason. Many of the cases that have been litigated so far involve federal courts with jurisdiction over Virginia. This case involved Ohio located in the sixth Circuit. The logic adopted by the Virginia Courts is catching on in other jurisdictions.

One other point to keep in mind. Although credit unions are winning these cases on standing grounds, I would strongly urge those that have not yet updated your website to make them ADA compliant . Sooner or later, you will have to show either regulators or a litigious member that your website complies with ADA requirements.

Entry filed under: Legal Watch. Tags: , .

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., Senior Vice President, General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association. In addition, although Henry strives to give his readers useful and accurate information on a broad range of subjects, many of which involve legal disputes, his views are not a substitute for legal advise from retained counsel.

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