WHATEVER YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THE PLAIN-
tiffs bar, you have to admire its resourcefulness. In recent months, plaintiffs lawyers have
devised new types of class action lawsuits that
are catching companies off guard.
These aren’t your father’s class actions.
They involve cutting-edge technology. And
they reflect the ever-growing importance of
e-commerce, which increased by 20 percent in
2015 and is expected to double by 2019.
Here’s one example: Dozens of companies,
from The Home Depot Inc. to the National Basketball Association Inc., have been accused of
not making their websites accessible to blind
or deaf users. The U.S. Department of Justice
could stem the tide of lawsuits by clarifying
what companies need to do, but the agency
recently announced that it wouldn’t offer guidance until 2018.
Biometric data such as facial scans and fin-
gerprints have also become fodder for class
actions. The second half of 2015 brought a rash
of lawsuits alleging mishandling of this pow-
erful data, including several cases relating to
Facebook Inc.’s use of facial recognition soft-
ware. These suits will likely increase as more
states enact legislation to regulate the rapidly
growing biometrics industry, which was worth
an estimated $7 billion in 2014 and could be
worth $44 billion by 2020, according to the
research firm Radiant Insights.
Plaintiffs lawyers are scrutinizing electronic
payments as well. In recent months, there has
been a wave of class actions alleging unauthorized deductions from bank accounts. Because
of the way the statute at issue is written, a single defendant can face multiple class actions,
each purporting to represent plaintiffs in a different geographic region. “It’s like death by a
thousand cuts,” says Donald Maurice, name
partner at Maurice Wutscher, a financial services law firm.
OUT OF FOCUS
PLAINTIFFS LAWYERS TAKE AIM AT WEB ACCESS AND PRIVACY.