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October 14, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Prolific litigant sues Consumer Reports on behalf of the deaf

A deaf man who has sued more than a hundred companies under the Americans with Disabilities Act has made Consumer Reports Inc. his latest target.

Phillip Sullivan Jr. of New York City filed a class action complaint against the Yonkers-based publisher on Jan. 15 in federal court in White Plains.

He claims that Consumer Reports’ failure to use closed captioning with videos “excludes the deaf and hard-of-hearing from the full and equal participation in the growing internet economy that is increasingly a fundamental part of the common marketplace and daily living.”

Consumer Reports did not respond to an email message asking for a response.

The federal lawsuit is the 107th that Sullivan has filed in the Southern District of New York since April 2017. Many of the defendants are media companies, such as CNN, Fox News, National Public Radio, Newsweek and The New York Times. Nonmedia defendants include organizations such as the National Rifle Association, Starbucks and Varidesk.

He is represented by Lee Litigation Group of Manhattan, “one of the most active filers of class action lawsuits in the country,” according to Legal Newsline, an advocate of tort reform that is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Defendants routinely settle the lawsuits quickly, Newsline said in a 2017 story, even before courts have certified cases as class actions.

Sullivan tried to watch “Your Safer-Surgery Survival Guide” video on Consumer Reports’ website in December, the complaint states, but was unable to do so on his own because it has no closed captioning.

Closed captioning consists of a transcription or translation of the audio portion of a video, without which, the complaint states, deaf and hard-of-hearing people cannot comprehend the videos.

The lack of closed captioning is a barrier, the lawsuit argues, “just as buildings without ramps bar people who use wheelchairs.”

About 36 million people are deaf or hard of hearing in the United States, according to the lawsuit.

Sullivan is suing under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which requires full access to public accommodations, and under state human rights and civil rights laws.

He is demanding that Consumer Reports makes its website fully compliant with the laws. He is claiming that the class action damages amount to at least $5 million.