By Chris Palamountain

Armed with little more than a form complaint, a list of banks, and a few individuals who are blind, the Pittsburg, Pennsylvania firm of Bruce Carlson of Carlson Lynch LTD has filed at least 16 class action lawsuits in the U.S. District Courts for the Southern, Northern, and Eastern Districts of Texas.  See, e.g., Victoria Gilkerson v. Green Bank, N.A., Case U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas Case No. 4:12 – cv-02019.  All 16 suits involve one of three plaintiffs, each of whom claims that she was driven to the subject bank and attempted to use the bank’s ATM.  Based upon that visit, the plaintiff alleges that the bank’s ATM fails to comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”) in that, among other things, the ATM does not have speech output.  The plaintiffs additionally allege violations of the Texas Human Resource Code, Tex. Hum. Res. Code Ann. § 121.001 et seq., and the Texas Architectural Barrier Act, Tex. Gov’t Code Ch. 469, state statutes analogous to the ADA.  

The plaintiffs appear to have mostly targeted smaller community banks and credit unions, some of which are in rural or suburban areas.  The defendant banks may benefit from a coordinated strategy to challenge the standing of these plaintiffs, limit counsel’s fees, and prevent the unnecessary expansion of the cases. 

Plaintiffs’ strategy of filing class actions rather than individual suits appears designed to increase fees  without providing any real additional benefit to putative class members.  The lawsuits only request injunctive relief and damages on behalf of the individual plaintiffs.  On behalf of the putative class members, the plaintiffs only seek declaratory relief.  In their complaints, plaintiffs imply that the alleged violations are long-standing by citing that the ADA was passed two decades ago.  Buried in a footnote is the fact that the lawsuit is based on requirements that just took effect on March 15, 2012.