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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Another class action claims McDonald's could open restaurants to visually impaired at night, but chooses not to

By Scott Holland | Feb 16, 2018


McDonald’s is facing another federal class action complaint from customers who say the restaurant denies people with visual impairments equal access during late night, drive-through-only hours.

Karen Morey, of Villa Park, Calif., filed her complaint Feb. 13 in Chicago. She suffers from macular degeneration and can’t drive at night, putting her in a class of people protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She said McDonald’s discriminates against such customers when restaurants shift to drive-through-only operations, an experience she documented from a late 2017 trip to the McDonald’s in Orange, Calif., about three miles from her home.

According to the complaint, the drive-through windows at McDonald’s restaurants “lack any meaningful for visually-impaired individuals who are unable to operate motor vehicles. Since they are unable to drive, and because it is not safe for them to walk through the drive-(through), visually-impaired individuals are totally precluded from accessing defendants’ products during late night hours. … This lack of accessibility is particularly offensive given the sophistication and size of McDonald’s as well as the advanced technological society in which we live today.”

In detailing the distinction between counter service and drive-through windows, Morey also praised the burger chain, stating “one of the hallmarks of McDonald’s success has been its adaptability,” and referencing 2015 updates such as changes to bun toasting times, hamburger patty searing methods, using margarine instead of butter for Egg McMuffins, using cage-free eggs and making some breakfast items available all day, among others.

Morey further detailed the way McDonald’s adjusts drive-through operations, such as streamlining menu options and implementing training and operations procedures to ensure order accuracy, noting the chain’s “precision calibrations and shrewd business planning is consummate with its status as an international business monolith. Curiously absent, however, from McDonald’s continued adaptation, is any concern whatsoever for the accessibility of their late-night drive-(throughs) to the disabled.”

According to the complaint, company policy forces McDonald’s employees to refuse service to anyone trying to order food from a drive-through window while on foot, and when a restaurant has shifted to late-night operations, “customers are not permitted to physically enter the McDonald’s to order food,” effectively barring people with visual impairments from “independently using or enjoying” McDonald’s goods and services during those hours.

“There are a variety of modest accommodations defendant could make that would allow blind people to access to McDonald’s late-night restaurant services,” the complaint said, though it did not specify what those might be. “However McDonald’s does not employ any such policy or practice.”

The complaint calls for creation of a nationwide class as well as a class for California customers. Formal complaints include violation of Title III of the ADA for the nationwide class, and of the Unruh Civil Rights Act for the California class. In addition to class certification and a jury trial, Morey seeks a court order to prevent McDonald’s from further ADA violations and a permanent injunction requiring the chain to make its drive-through lanes accessible and usable for customers with vision impairments.

Morey also seeks actual, compensatory and statutory damages as well as legal fees.

She is represented in the matter by Beaumont Costales, LLC, of Chicago, and Glenn M. Goffin, of Foster City, Calif.

A similar action was brought in May 2016 against McDonald's in Chicago federal court by plaintiff Scott Magee. That case remains pending.

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Organizations in this Story

McDonald's CorporationU.S. District Court for the Northern District of IllinoisBeaumont Costales LLC