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The Seventh Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling in favor of a Johnson & Bell credit union client.  The ruling likely will affect similar discrimination suits brought by a plaintiff’s firm across the country.  In the lower court case, Johnson & Bell Attorney, Ramses Jalalpour, secured dismissal of a federal lawsuit filed against his credit union client.  The lawsuit claimed that the credit union’s website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it is not accessible to people who are blind.  The plaintiff, who is permanently blind, alleged that the credit union’s website was inaccessible because it could not be used through screen reading software.  The plaintiff sought an injunction, as well as attorneys’ fees.

Mr. Jalalpour filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of standing.  He argued that the plaintiff failed to allege an injury-in-fact since he did not fall within the field of membership of our client credit union and was ineligible to use its services.  Therefore, even if the credit union’s website was made accessible to people who are blind, any increased accessibility would not benefit the plaintiff.  The district court agreed with defense’s arguments and granted dismissal without prejudice.  On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and rejected the plaintiff’s argument that injury to his dignity was sufficient to establish constitutional standing.

The plaintiff’s law firm has filed or threatened to file numerous lawsuits against credit unions across the country asserting identical ADA claims.  The credit union industry is contesting these suits vigorously and hopes to use this decision to support other dismissal orders.

Note: If you have access to Westlaw,  Reuter's Alison Frankel wrote an article ("7th Circuit: ADA plaintiff has no standing to sue credit union he can't join") about this ruling. 

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