• Tennessee Financial Institutions Should Be Aware of a Rise in ATM Accessibility Lawsuits
  • August 17, 2013 | Author: Joshua J. Sudbury
  • Law Firm: Ford & Harrison LLP - Nashville Office
  • Executive Summary:  Banks and other financial institutions in Tennessee should take note of a recent string of lawsuits filed in Tennessee challenging the accessibility of automatic teller machines (ATMs). The lawsuits, which seek class certification, have been brought by a visually impaired plaintiff claiming the defendant institution's ATM lacks features required by recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act's (ADA) guidelines for visually impaired individuals.  

    The lawsuits are spurred by recent amendments to the regulations governing the ADA, which set forth several new accessibility requirements that became effective in March 2012.  Among other things, the new regulations require that all ATMs be equipped with voice guidance and raised key surfaces to assist visually impaired consumers.  Despite these new regulations, the Wall Street Journal reported on March 7, 2012 that at least 50% of the nation's ATMs remained inaccessible to the visually impaired.

    The Pennsylvania law firm Carlson Lynch, which represents the plaintiff in each of these cases, is also responsible for hundreds of virtually identical lawsuits in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Georgia, Texas, and Michigan.  In March of this year, Bruce Carlson posted on his firm's website that the firm has a well-financed "team of lawyers, paralegals and investigators . . . working with a dedicated group of blind advocates to pursue civil litigation calculated to enforce the accessibility requirements" of the ADA.  Carlson Lynch has partnered with the well-known plaintiff's employment law firm of Gilbert Russell McWherter to pursue these actions in Tennessee.

    Because successful plaintiffs can recover attorneys' fees and costs under the ADA, these suits are no doubt just the beginning of what's to come.  Owners and operators of ATMs in Tennessee should carefully examine the machines to determine whether the ATMs are in compliance with the technical requirements of the ADA's Standards for Accessible Design to avoid being caught up in this wave of litigation.