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Serial plaintiff sues Louis Garneau USA over website ADA compliance

Published March 10, 2020

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (BRAIN) — An Astoria, N.Y. man who is legally blind is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed against Louis Garneau USA. The suit alleges the Vermont-based company's website is not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The man, Brian Fischler, is the lead plaintiff on dozens of similar lawsuits filed in New York over the last two years; his law firm is among the firms that file the majority of such cases across the country. 

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Last year, a man from Brooklyn sued Haro Bicycle with a similar complaint. That suit, which was later settled, does not appear to be related to the suit against Garneau. The man who sued Haro was represented by a different law firm.

In both cases, the men said they were unable to access all features of the brands' websites, in violation of the ADA. In particular, Fischler charges that images on the Garneau USA website lack alternative text that would allow them to be accessible via a screen reader, videos lack audio descriptions, and some webpage headings are not labeled, making navigation difficult, and creating other challenges. 

The suit demands that Garneau fix the site and train employees to maintain the site in compliance with the ADA and with the New York State Human Rights Law. He also wants to the court to find Garneau liable for compensatory damages, civil penalities, fines and attorneys' fees. 

Fischler is represented by Lipsky Lowe LLP, a New York firm that specializes in employment law including disability discrimination issues. According to a report presented at a 2019 legal symposium at a International Franchise Association meeting, Lipsky Lowe is among 10 U.S. firms who have filed 82% of all ADA website lawsuits nationally. The presenters at the symposium called such lawsuits "surf-by" suits, filed after a brief web surf that identified ADA compliance violations.

Garneau and Haro are the only bike industry companies known by BRAIN to have been sued over website ADA compliance. It's likely many other industry brands have at least received legal complaints. Louis Garneau USA did not have a response because the company had yet to review the complaint, which is dated March 8. Louis Garneau Sports, based in Québec, filed for creditor protection on March 4, but a company representative said the Vermont business is not directly affected by the bankruptcy. 

While they are not legally binding, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3) are often viewed as defining best practice for website accessibility.  

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