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Access Now, Inc. v. Allen Edmonds Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 13, 2017

ACCESS NOW, INC. on behalf of its members; R. DAVID NEW; and LISA FRAZIER, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLEN EDMONDS CORPORATION, Defendant. LISA FRAZIER, Plaintiff,
v.
VAIL RESORTS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court is Defendant Vail Resorts' Motion for Reassignment. ECF 55. Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition (ECF 60) making this issue ripe for disposition.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is a legally blind person who has to use a “screen reader program” when attempting to obtain information from websites. According to the Complaint, Defendant is a premier mountain resort company and a leader in luxury, destination based travel. Defendant maintains various websites and through these websites, Defendant provides information about its hotels and hotel services as well as discounts, deals, and vacation packages.

         The Complaint indicates that the websites are “largely incompatible” with the screen reader programs Plaintiff and other visually impaired individuals use. Because of the incompatibility, Plaintiff claims that Vail Resorts “deprives blind and visually-impaired individuals the benefits of its online goods, content, and services - all benefits it affords nondisabled individuals - thereby increasing the sense of isolation and stigma among these Americans that Title III was meant to redress.” ECF 1.

         Defendant's Motion for Reassignment argues that Plaintiff wrongfully designated this specific case as “related to” Jahoda v. Foot Locker, Inc., 15-cv-1000-AJS (“Foot Locker”). The Defendant notes that Plaintiffs' counsel has filed over eighty lawsuits in this United States District Court within the past two years on behalf of visually impaired or blind individuals asserting that various defendants have websites which violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. All of the lawsuits have been designated as related to Foot Locker and were, therefore, assigned the undersigned Judge in accordance with LCivR 40E. Defendant challenges the “related” designation which was asserted by Plaintiff on the civil cover sheet when the Complaint in the instant matter was first filed.

         II. Analysis

         Although a plaintiff in a case has the right to designate a case as related to another case by so indicating on the civil cover sheet, this Court has discretion to reject an assignment if the Court determines that a case was not related to a prior filed case, or if the assignment would not “promote the convenience of the parties or witnesses or the just and efficient conduct of the action.” LCivR 40 D-E.

         The relevant Local Rule of Civil Procedure for the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania which governs the assignment of newly filed cases reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

C. Assignment of Civil Actions. Each civil action shall be assigned to a Judge who shall have charge of the case. The assignment shall be made by the Clerk of Court from a non-sequential list of all Judges arranged in each of the various categories. Sequences of Judges' names within each category shall be kept secret and no person shall directly or indirectly ascertain or divulge or attempt to ascertain or divulge the name of the Judge to whom any case may be assigned before the assignment is made by the Clerk of Court.
D. Related Actions. At the time of filing any civil or criminal action or entry of appearance or filing of the pleading or motion of any nature by defense counsel, as the case may be, counsel shall indicate on an appropriate form whether the action is related to any other pending or previously terminated actions in this Court. Relatedness shall be determined as follows:
***
2. civil actions are deemed related when an action filed relates to property included in another action, or involves the same issue of fact, or it grows out of the same transaction as another action, or involves the validity ...

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