On August 5, 2013, seven class action lawsuits were simultaneously filed against separate banks and credit unions in Middle Tennessee, alleging that the defendants’ ATMs failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuits were all filed by the same law firm, Gilbert Russell McWherter PLC, and the cases involve only two named plaintiffs, both blind individuals who claim that they were denied services by the defendants as a result of ATMs that are not accessible to the visually impaired. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege, in part, that the ATMs did not have braille instructions and lacked audio capability. These suits seek injunctive relief, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs, for the violations.
In many respects, these lawsuits are similar to previous litigation targeting operators of ATMs that allegedly lacked ATM fee disclosure decals. The new class action lawsuits are based on recent ADA regulations that became effective on March 15, 2012, and that set forth numerous accessibility requirements for ATMs. A Wall Street Journal article published on March 7, 2012, noted that at least 50% of the nation’s ATMs remain inaccessible to blind individuals in violation of the ADA despite the March 15, 2012 effective date of the ADA regulations.
While there are at least 100 similar pending class actions across the country, yesterday’s filings represent part of the first wave of these lawsuits to reach Tennessee. Nationally, these class actions are being filed by a small number of law firms, many of whom were involved in the fee-disclosure lawsuits. If the plaintiffs’ law firm follows the same strategy that was used in other states like Pennsylvania, Texas, and Georgia, a number of virtually identical class action lawsuits could be filed against other Tennessee banks over the course of the next several days and weeks. With attorneys’ fees and costs permitted as an award to any successful plaintiff, we expect more complaints of this nature to continue to make their way across Tennessee, Mississippi, and the rest of the Southeast.