I was on the Oregon-based radio show Tuesday evening to discuss the legislative battle over the DISCLOSE Act and the case of the passenger bumped by Southwest Airlines to make way for the second seat needed for an obese teen.
Because it’s not as if you actually have to have been, like, harmed or anything to get a class action going (AP/USA Today, Apr. 16). Birmingham, Ala. lawyer Lew Garrison is representing four passengers on “claims that include breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and negligent and reckless operation of an aircraft”.
Is Southwest Airline discriminating against the Pretty Girls again?
“I think they were just discriminating against because we were young decent-looking girls. I mean, nobody else on the plane looked like us except us,” she said. “[The flight attendants] were like older ladies. We were younger. Who knows, they could have been just jealous of us because we were younger.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
(Tampabays.com, Feb. 27)
H/T Wizbang (with video)
In a major victory for disabled-rights activists, federal judge Marilyn Hall Patel has ruled that the National Federation of the Blind can go to trial against the Target Corp. on charges that its online shopping website should be redesigned to make it easier for blind computer users to use. (Bloomberg, Reuters).
We’ve covered the Target suit Feb. 8 (with enormous reader discussion), Oct. 4 and Oct. 27 of last year. Existing federal court precedent, in the Southwest Airlines case, discourages the most far-reaching demands for web “accessibility”; the Target case, which is being heard before a judge who’s considered relatively liberal, is important because disabled-rights activists hope to use it to counter and eventually reverse the Southwest precedent (see Jan. 8, 2004). For reasons why a victory by the activists might lead to unprecedented infringements on the freedom to conduct business or even publish online, see my May 2000 Reason column and my House testimony of earlier that year, and earlier posts on this site (& welcome Michelle Malkin readers).
That’s Southwest Airlines, according to plaintiff’s lawyers suing it over a 2005 accident at Chicago’s Midway Airport. (Joseph R. McFaul, Sharks in the Water, Jan. 14).
For aficionados of one-sided litigation coverage, here’s a lulu from the Associated Press. It’s an article on the lawsuit (National Federation of the Blind v. Target) seeking to establish that companies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when they do not design their websites so as to make them “accessible” to users who are blind, deaf, lacking in motor skills needed for mouse use, etc. The article fails to mention the courts’ rejection of the disabled rights groups’ position in the Southwest Airlines case, though it’s the major existing precedent on the point. And aside from a ritual and uninformative denial by the retailer defendant Target that it is liable, the article presents as uncontroversial the demand that non-accessible websites be declared unlawful, with not a hint of why anyone might consider it a thoroughly disastrous idea. Oh, wait: the article does incorporate a bit of controversy, by recording worries that a victory for the plaintiffs in the Target case might not go far enough and come out being “read too narrowly. Not every business or Web site is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, said [Washington, D.C. lawyer] John D. Kemp”. (Seth Sutel, “Blind Web surfers sue for accessibility”, AP/San Jose Mercury-News, Oct. 24).
In San Francisco, federal judge Marilyn Hall Patel has allowed a lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind to go forward against the Target Corp., charging that the retailer’s website, Target.com, is insufficiently “accessible” to blind users. Websites are considered accessible to blind users when they (e.g.) include summaries or transcripts for audio/video elements and alt-text for images, while avoiding designs that require users to rely on graphic elements for navigation. Disabled-rights groups had suffered a serious setback a few years ago in their legal campaign to enforce web accessibility, when a court ruled that Southwest Airlines was not liable for the inaccessibility of its online ticket reservation system to some handicapped users. However, Judge Patel (regarded as relatively liberal by the standards of the federal bench) distinguished that case on the grounds that the Target website had more of a “nexus” to physical Target stores than did the airline’s ticketing site. (“Target can be sued if Web site inaccessible to blind, judge says”, AP/Houston Chronicle, Sept. 7; Bob Egelko, “Ruling on Web site access for blind”, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 8; Sheri Qualters, “Discrimination Case Opens Door to Internet ADA Claims”, National Law Journal/Law.com, Sept. 28; Slashdot thread). The ruling, in PDF format, is here (courtesy Howard Bashman, who also rounds up other links).
Longtime readers will recall that I’ve been much involved in the web-accessibility controversy over the years. Some links: my May 2000 column for Reason on the subject; various posts on this site, 1999-2002; my House testimony of Feb. 2000; Jan. 8, 2004. And this site’s earlier coverage of the Target case provoked one of the biggest comments discussions ever (Feb. 28, 2006).
Left over from last month: “An economics professor from California who was arrested because a flight attendant thought she looked like a terrorist has been awarded $27.5m. In a victory for critics of racial profiling, a jury in El Paso, Texas, ordered Southwest Airlines to pay damages to Samantha Carrington for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution after she was bundled off a flight and arrested because flight attendants found her appearance suspicious.” (Salamagundi, Apr. 14; Best of the Fray; Protein Wisdom; “Finding the wrong answer” (editorial), USA Today, Apr. 14). For more links on air profiling, see our aviation page archive.
“A jury on Friday said Southwest Airlines did not racially discriminate against an overweight passenger when she was asked to buy a second seat on her flight.” Nadine Thompson of Exeter, N.H., CEO of a successful cosmetics company, claimed the airline applied its “customer of size” policy in a racially discriminatory manner. On Friday Joel Drake, a Southwest employee, testified that Thompson herself had “accused him of being a ‘motherf—— racist pig’ and wished that his family would die from cancer when he tried to explain the company’s policy to her. …Thompson testified that Drake was bullying her and she felt scared, so words were her only way to fight back. She said she felt cornered and powerless.” (Kathy McCormack, “Jury: Southwest didn’t discriminate against passenger”, AP/Boston Globe, Feb. 10; “Told to buy 2 seats, Exeter woman sues Southwest, claims racial discrimination”, AP/Manchester Union-Leader, Feb. 8). Earlier second-seat suits: Dec. 20, 2000, etc. More: Thompson says she won’t appeal (AP, Feb. 15).