Ohio, Alabama Judges Toss Out ADA Cases

District Court judges in Ohio and Alabama have thrown out two lawsuits against a pair of credit unions — Dover, Ohio-based DoverPhila Federal Credit Union and Decatur, Ala.-based Family Security Credit Union — whose Web sites allegedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to Credit Union Times. This ruling comes on the heels of a recent string of dismissals of similar cases by District Courts in Virginia.

According to the new court filings, the judges in these latest cases separately ruled that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue the two credit unions because the plaintiffs were not eligible for membership. The issue of the plaintiffs’ intent was also a factor for both courts.

“DoverPhila membership is limited to those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Tuscarawas County. Plaintiff has not alleged that he meets any of these criteria,” the judge in the Ohio case wrote. “Plaintiff lives over 200 miles away from the closest DoverPhila branch.”

“Plaintiff has not suggested that he even intends to use the banking services DoverPhila offers,” the opinion added.

DoverPhila FCU, which has $458 million in assets and about 35,000 members, was first sued back on January 15. Family Security CU, which has $650 million in assets and about 82,000 members, was sued on January 31.

In the original complaints, the plaintiffs alleged that the credit unions’ Web sites lacked text that allowed screen readers to verbally describe the sites’ graphics, contained redundant links that created navigation problems for blind users and had empty or missing form labels, which made the sites more cumbersome for blind users.

The two plaintiffs, who are represented by the same attorney, have sued at least 10 other credit unions in Ohio and four other credit unions in Alabama.

In a statement to CU Times, attorneys Joseph Lynett and Roland DeMonte, who represent DoverPhila FCU, said they were pleased with the court’s decision.

“The court applied well-settled legal principals establishing that the plaintiff had no standing to file this lawsuit in the first place, despite the disability he allegedly has,” they said. “Credit unions, as well as other places of public accommodation, have been beset by these website accessibility lawsuits in Ohio and nationwide. We hope that decisions like this one will give plaintiffs’ attorneys pause before filing these lawsuits in a scattershot manner.”

CUNA, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the DoverPhila FCU case along with the Ohio Credit Union League, also weighed in.

“We are glad to see complaints dismissed against Dover-Philadelphia Federal Credit Union and Family Security Credit Union. The courts properly found that the plaintiffs lacked standing, given they were ineligible for membership in the credit unions,” CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle said. “These frivolous lawsuits are harmful to small businesses and do not confer benefits upon the disabled Americans the ADA is designed to protect. CUNA will continue its work across the country to fight the meritless claims brought throughout these lawsuits.”