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Ollie's Bargain Outlet

Carlson Lynch won a contested class certification motion against Ollie’s Bargain Outlets, which was successfully argued by founding partner, Bruce Carlson. This case (click here for the transcript) alleged that the interior of the retail locations were inaccessible because of the manner that the staff positions merchandise, boxes, etc. (e.g., “cluttered aisles”).

Read the judge’s opinion here.


Uber Driver

FEDERAL APPEALS COURT: CIVIL RIGHTS CLAIMS AGAINST UBER MUST BE HEARD IN COURT

Plaintiffs suing Uber for failing to provide transportation accessible to people with disabilities cannot be forced out of court and into arbitration, a Federal Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday. Read the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion here.

The plaintiffs are people with disabilities who cannot use Uber’s on-demand transportation service in Pittsburgh because there are no wheelchair accessible vehicles available through Uber’s app. The lawsuit, filed in 2019, seeks modifications to Uber’s policies and practices to ensure that the company makes wheelchair-accessible vehicles readily available to Pittsburgh riders who need them. Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Uber’s argument that a provision in its terms of service could apply to people who had never agreed to it and prevent them from bringing discrimination claims against Uber in court.

“Uber and other ride-sharing companies need to be held accountable for their discriminatory exclusion of people with disabilities,” said Disability Rights Advocates Staff Attorney Melissa Riess. “They are a multi-billion dollar company and they can and should be rolling out service that everyone can use. This ruling confirms that they cannot squirm out of court and their obligations to abide by civil rights law through the fine print in their terms of service. We are delighted that our clients will have their day in court.”

“Uber’s business model is in-part calculated to cut into the market share of bus companies and other public transportation companies that offer accessible transportation. While Uber and other ride-sharing services offer a convenient transportation option, this case and similar cases are intended to ensure that that option does not exclude individuals with disabilities.” Said Bruce Carlson, Partner Carlson Lynch.

The Court of Appeals’ ruling means that the plaintiffs can proceed in court and have their claims heard under federal civil rights law. The court rejected as “meritless” Uber’s novel argument that people who have not downloaded Uber’s app or signed up to its terms of use could be forced into arbitration, upholding the basic legal principle that someone cannot be bound by a contract they did not sign.

In addition to the case filed against Uber in Pittsburgh, DRA has filed cases against Uber in New York and California for their failure to serve riders who use wheelchairs. DRA has also filed a case against Uber’s competitor Lyft in California. These cases are critical to protecting the rights of wheelchair-users throughout the country. More background on the case is available here.

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About Disability Rights Advocates

With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the nation. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to education, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.

About Carlson Lynch LLP

Carlson Lynch, LLP is a national class action firm with offices in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and Philadelphia. Since 2010, Carlson Lynch has dedicated significant resources to litigation on behalf of individuals with disabilities and is committed to pursuing impactful cases that advance the interests of the disabled community on the largest possible scale. www.carlsonlynch.com


Jamisen Etzel

Spotlight: Jamisen Etzel

Attorney Spotlight: Jamisen Etzel

Q&A WITH JAMISEN

Why did you become a lawyer?

Starting in middle school, several experiences sparked me to study constitutional rights and socioeconomic justice. I also always loved reading history, and started following politics during the presidential election in 2000. Still, even though these interests might naturally suggest a career in law or government, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated high school. But during my freshman year in college, I started to see that most of the things I might like to do for work would be more feasible with a law degree. So I started looking into that path, and decided to go for it. I think it was a great choice for me.

Most memorable court room experience?

I can’t pick just one, so I have three, all quite different.

First, we took a case to a jury trial in 2018, and the middle of it was interrupted by a major blizzard, so we had to wait around in snow-covered Philadelphia for a day and half before court reopened. The whole experience was a bit surreal, especially the moment that the jury foreperson read the verdict, which felt pretty dramatic even though we were very confident in our case. Fortunately, the jury awarded our clients everything we sought, so it’s a good memory.

Second, I would say all of my appellate oral arguments have been very memorable. I’ve only done five at this point, so each one is still fresh in my mind. I really enjoy getting to know every detail of a case and the applicable law, and then trying to convince a panel of judges to go our way. It’s not easy, but it is exhilarating and can be fun if you approach it the right way.

Third, I actually served on a jury for a criminal case a couple years ago. I didn’t think I’d get picked given the fact that I’m a lawyer, but I made it through. It was not a major case, but it also wasn’t an easy case, so the deliberations took about a full day, and were a bit contentious at points. Even though I’d been a lawyer for a few years at that point, I learned a lot about our justice system from that experience, and I’ll never forget it.

What are 3 things you couldn’t survive without?

  1. Friends, family, and my wife. I’ve been very fortunate on all those fronts, and am lucky to be married to someone whose own friends and family are also people I enjoy spending time with. Being surrounded by great people who you love to talk to and celebrate life with is very sustaining.
  2. Music. It’s always been important to me for a lot of reasons. It keeps the good parts of my brain active and gives my mood a boost whenever I need it.
  3. Keeping up on the news. This might seem trivial to some people, who can tune it all out and be perfectly happy, but I’m not wired like that. I need to know what’s going on in the world, or I’ll start to feel like I’m trapped in a cave.

Favorite Musician or Band?

My favorite band is The Lawrence Arms, a punk trio from Chicago. More widely-known honorable mentions would be The Cure, Radiohead, and Bruce Hornsby. A weird mix.

Favorite Activity to do in Pittsburgh on the weekend?

Going out to a restaurant or a show with my wife and/or friends.

Jamisen's Profile


Pittsburgh Lawyer Tapped for ‘Most Diverse Leadership Team Ever’ in Data Breach Class Action MDL

US. District Judge Michelle Childs instructed lawyers to consider a diverse team to lead about 20 lawsuits against Blackbaud. Five weeks later, she followed through.

What has been hailed as one of the most diverse leadership teams to lead a multidistrict litigation docket, a group of eight women and four men, including lawyers of color, will pilot class actions brought over a data breach involving cloud management software firm Blackbaud.

The appointment order (//images.law.com/contrib/content/uploads/documents/292/Critical-Mass-nts-3.3.21-data-breach-leadership-appointment.pdf) did not come from just any judge. U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs is a 2010 appointee of President Barack Obama to the South Carolina bench. U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, recently floated Childs’ name (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/21/us/politics/biden-supreme-court-black-woman.html) as one to be considered as a top pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. If a vacancy is created and she is selected, Childs would be the first Black woman to serve on the high court. That would fulfill a campaign pledge of President Joe Biden.

In a Jan. 8 order, Childs instructed lawyers to consider a diverse team to lead about 20 lawsuits against Blackbaud, which is headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina.
“The court also seeks to develop the future generation of diverse MDL leadership by providing competent candidates with opportunities for substantive participation now,” she wrote.

Five weeks later, on Feb. 16, she followed through.

The team includes four co-lead counsel. Amy Keller (https://dicellolevitt.com/attorney/amy-e-keller/), of Chicago’s DiCello Levitt Gutzler, is a veteran MDL lawyer, having served as co-lead counsel in multidistrict litigation over three other data breaches, involving Equifax, Marriott and American Medical Collection Agency. She and Melissa Emert, of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman in Chestnut Ridge, New York, who was appointed to the Blackbaud plaintiffs’ steering committee, had the most appointments in MDLs of any woman attorney from 2016 to 2019 (https://www.law.com/2020/07/06/there-are-new-faces-leading-mdls-and-they-arent-all-men/).

It is the first appointment for Krysta Pachman
(https://www.susmangodfrey.com/attorneys/krysta-kauble-pachman/), of Susman Godfrey in Los Angeles, and Marlon Kimpson (https://www.motleyrice.com/attorneys/marlon-e-kimpson), of Motley Rice, a Democratic state senator in South Carolina, who has worked on other mass torts with name partner Joe Rice (https://www.motleyrice.com/attorneys/joseph-f-rice). It’s the first co-lead counsel role for Harper Segui (https://milberg.com/attorney/harper-t-segui/), a partner in Raleigh, North Carolina, at Whitfeld Bryson, now known as Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman. The plaintiffs’ steering committee also includes a lawyer from Pittsburgh’s Carlson Lynch.

Pachman, speaking for the leadership team, said in an email: “Not only did Judge Childs note her conscious effort to avoid implicit bias and not overlook candidates based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age or geography, but she also indicated in her case management order that she expected counsel to perform their duties in a way that is free of discrimination and bias, including choosing a diverse slate of vendors.

“She selected what is arguably the most diverse leadership team ever in an MDL to the benefit of the class.”

In the lawsuits, Blackbaud is accused of failing to adequately respond to hackers whose activities exposed its clients and their customers to exposure of personal data. Blackbaud has said, according to media reports, that it combatted and curtailed the threat from the hack.

On Dec. 15, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation sent the Blackbaud lawsuits to Childs, who has handled one prior MDL.

In assembling the leadership team, Childs appointed lawyers from two competing proposed slates, then added three attorneys who applied individually. She appointed Frank Ulmer, of McCulley McCluer in Charleston, as liaison counsel. In addition to Emert, the plaintiffs’ steering committee is: Gretchen Cappio, of Seattle’s Keller Rohrback; Desiree Cummings of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd in New York; Kelly Iverson of Carlson Lynch; Howard Longman of Stull, Stull & Brody in New York; Douglas McNamara, of Washington, D.C.’s Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll; and Melissa Weiner, of Pearson, Simon & Warshaw in Minneapolis.


Stonefire Naan $1.9 Million False Ad Settlement Gets Final Nod

By: Bloomberg Law | Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

• Consumers may receive $2.50 per item, no injunctive relief
• Bread allegedly mass-produced despite portrayal as traditional

Stonefire Naan maker FGF Brands Inc. and consumers alleging it duped them into thinking mass-produced breads are hand-baked in traditional tandoor ovens won an Illinois federal court’s final approval for a $1.9 million class settlement.

The deal, which provides class members $2.50 for each product purchased, is fair, reasonable, and adequate, Judge Robert W. Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said Tuesday.

Emily Friend alleged FGF Brands, a Canadian company, and its American unit FGF USA Brands Inc. tout their products as “hand-stretched and tandoor oven-baked to honor 2,000 years of tradition.”

But rather than being baked in a traditional tandoor oven, which is operated over a wood- or charcoal-burning fire and can accommodate only one or two pieces of naan at a time, Stonefire bread is produced on an “endless” conveyor belt that rotates through a gas-heated commercial oven capable of baking 15,000 pieces an hour, she alleged.

The nationwide class covers purchasers who bought affected Stonefire products between Nov. 16, 2013, and Oct. 23, 2020.

The court also approved the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ request for approximately $650,000 in fees and costs, and a $7,500 service award to Friend.

Gettleman denied the company’s motion to dismiss the suit in 2019. But he said Friend, who’d become aware of the alleged deception, lacked standing to pursue injunctive relief such as marketing changes because she wouldn’t be fooled in the future, a requirement for such relief.

The deal was preliminarily approved in October 2020.

Carlson Lynch LLP and Gordon Law Offices represented the plaintiffs. Kirk-land & Ellis LLP represented FGF Brands.

The case is Friend v. FGF Brands (USA), Inc., N.D. Ill., No. 1:18-cv-07644, 2/16/21.

Link to read the full article: https://news.bloomberglaw.com/class-action/stonefire-naan-1-9-million-false-ad-settlement-gets-final-nod


Kyle Shamberg and woman at the beach

Spotlight: Kyle Shamberg

Attorney Spotlight: Kyle Shamberg

Q&A WITH KYLE

Why did you become a lawyer?

I’d always loved the academic side of argumentation – not the yelling and screaming but building a case and a position based on analysis of available facts – and I saw law school as a way to apply that interest and focus towards helping people exercise or defend their rights in society.

Most memorable court room experience?

Hearing the jury announce a verdict in my client’s favor in an asbestos exposure trial in Brooklyn. I was just a couple years out of law school and we’d been working 18-20 hour days for more than a week so seeing it work out in the end and sharing that moment with the client’s widow and children was special.

What are 3 things you couldn’t survive without?

My family, my guitar, and grapefruit-flavored seltzer water.

Favorite Musician or Band?

Killing Joke.

Favorite thing to do on the weekend?

As a lawyer and dad of two, definitely sleep.

How long have you been an Attorney at Carlson Lynch?

Started June 2019.

Kyle's Profile


Katrina Carroll Headshot

Katrina Carroll, Carlson Lynch Partner, Additional Lawyers Appeal Robocall Case to Protect Consumers

A total of thirty-four states and Washington, D.C. are appealing a ruling which held that companies were not liable for robocalls for 5 years while the Supreme Court was deciding an unrelated issue arising under the robocalling statute.

Carlson Lynch LLP Partner and Attorney Katrina Carroll commented on the appeal of the class action case saying, “We are pleased with the substantial outpouring of support we received from the majority of states, who came together and formed a bipartisan coalition to ensure that consumers are protected against illegal robocalls.”

This appeal comes after an Ohio federal judge became the second in the nation to adopt the argument that plaintiffs cannot press Telephone Consumer Protection Act claims related torobocalls or texts that were placed between the period when Congress permitted robocalls regarding federally backed debts and when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that exception to be unconstitutional (Law360.com).

Plaintiff Roberta Lindenbaum is represented by Katrina Carroll of Carlson Lynch and Leah Marie Nicholls and Ellen L. Noble of Public Justice.

Defendant Realgy LLC is represented by Ryan D. Watstein, Paul A. Grammatico and Matthew A Keilson of Kabat Chapman & Ozmer LLP.

***

Katrina Carroll is the founding partner of Carlson Lynch’s Chicago office and serves as Co-Chair of the Firm’s Executive Management Committee. She has been recognized as one of the top 25 class action lawyers in the State of Illinois and has been named multiple times as a SuperLawyer.

***

Founded in Pittsburgh in 2004, Carlson Lynch has earned national acclaim for complex litigation for plaintiffs. Carlson Lynch LLP is a leading law firm that specializes in cyber security, anti-theft, and consumer protection for more than 30 years. The firm currently has offices in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, Los Angeles and Chicago.


plane seen flying in through the windows of the airport terminal

JAMISEN ETZEL OF CARLSON LYNCH LLP APPOINTED AS INTERIM CO-LEAD COUNSEL IN COVID-19 TRAVEL INSURANCE LITIGATION

A federal judge in the Southern District of New York appointed Jamisen Etzel of Carlson Lynch LLP to serve as interim co-lead counsel in litigation on behalf of consumers fighting travel insurance claim denials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hon. John G. Koeltl of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a motion to appoint plaintiffs’ interim leadership counsel on January 29, 2021. The consolidated proceedings in New York include actions brought by consumers throughout the United States who allege that they purchased travel insurance policies from Generali Group and related entities.

The consumers were subsequently denied benefits or premium refunds when their travel plans were cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. In late 2020, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred all related federal suits against Generali to the Southern District of New York.

The other firms appointed as interim co-lead counsel in addition to Carlson Lynch LLP include Potts Law Firm and Cafferty Clobes Meriwether and Sprengel LLP. Kirby McInerney was appointed liaison counsel. The executive committee includes Raizner Slania LLP, Sauder Schelkopf LLC, Scott + Scott Attorneys at Law LLP, and Zimmermann Reed LLP.

***

Founded in Pittsburgh in 2004, Carlson Lynch has earned national acclaim for complex litigation for plaintiffs. Carlson Lynch LLP is a leading law firm that specializes in cyber security, anti-theft, and consumer protection for more than 30 years. The firm currently has offices in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, Los Angeles and Chicago.


Pamela Miller with her german shepherd

Spotlight: Pamela Miller

Attorney Spotlight: Pamela Miller

Q&A WITH PAMELA

Why did you become a lawyer?

At the core of it is my desire to help the underdog prevail. When I was young I use to hear stories about my dad’s co-workers at the railroad being injured on the job and how the employer would give them such a hard time. I just felt that was so unfair and it created this desire in me to help injured workers. That was my original reason for wanting to be a lawyer. (I am sure watching the Perry Mason reruns helped some too.) Since then my interest has expanded to helping those who cannot work due to their medical impairments to obtain Social Security disability benefits.

Most memorable court room experience?

My most memorable court room experience happened early in my law career when I was trying my second personal injury case. The attorney for the defendant was much more experienced than I was and that made me nervous about trying the case, especially when it came to making my closing argument. But after we had given our closing arguments and the jury was sent to the jury room to deliberate the outcome, the court reporter came up to me and told me that my closing argument and response to the defendant’s closing argument was “great”. Since I knew she had heard hundreds of these closing arguments, her seeking me out to give me this compliment really helped me gain confidence in my ability to summarize and argue my cases.

What are 3 things you couldn’t survive without?

God is first and foremost needed for me to survive as my faith is the center of who I am. Chocolate and my family and friends are the other things I would not want to be without.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I think there are a few things people would be surprised to learn about me, but if I was to list one of them I guess it would be that I owned and rode my own Harley Davidson motorcycle. This was actually an accomplishment for me because for many years I was afraid of riding motorcycles. I took the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Rider Safety course to learn how to ride, and I recommend it to anyone learning to ride.

Favorite activity to do on the weekend?

One of my favorite activities is going camping. It is nice to connect with nature, get away from the pressures of everyday life, and spend time with my husband without interruptions and the internet.

Pamela's Profile


Elizabeth Pollock-Avery Rock Climbing

Spotlight: Elizabeth Pollock Avery

Attorney Spotlight: Elizabeth Pollock-Avery

Q&A WITH ELIZABETH

What are 3 things you couldn’t survive without?

Food, water, and shelter. But if I don’t take this question literally, chapstick (I have a well-known chapstick compulsion), my family, and something to read.

Most memorable court room experience?

I’ve had my fair share of wins and losses in court, but there’s something to be said for watching the masters in action. Watching Gary Lynch argue the UPMC case in front of the PA Supreme Court was amazing, especially since I first because acquainted with Carlson Lynch through working on that case. I remember working past 2 am several years ago to get the original complaint in the case drafted. The fact that we won the argument made it even better.

Why did you become a lawyer?

I always thought I would be an accountant growing up, like my dad. When I was in college, I ended up taking macroeconomics and business law the same semester. I loved business law and hated macroeconomics, so I switched to focusing on going to law school.

Favorite Musician or Band?

I’m terrible at picking favorites, but I once answered a similar question with Ani DiFranco and death metal in a job interview and got the job because of that answer, so I’ll stick with that.

Favorite Activity to do on the weekend?

My ideal weekend would involve a lot of binge watching while crocheting, a hike or some gardening, then dinner with friends at an amazing restaurant, following by a campfire at my house.

Elizabeth's Profile