Judge sacks suit claiming McDonald’s late night drive-thru-only policy discriminates against visually impaired

By Dan Churney | Nov 15, 2018

Michael Rivera [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

A Chicago federal judge has fried a disability discrimination suit by a North Carolina man with visual impairments, saying the man’s lawsuit didn’t offer enough specifics to establish McDonald’s policy of only serving late night customers from its drive-up windows actually discriminated against him or others with visual impairments who cannot drive at night.

The Nov. 13 decision was laid down by Judge John Z. Lee, of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The ruling unraveled a putative class action suit by Christopher W. Faircloth, of Raleigh, N.C., against McDonald’s, which is headquartered in suburban Oak Brook.

Faircloth said he suffers from nystagmus, in which his eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements. This impairment prevents him from safely driving at night, he said.

Faircloth sued McDonald’s on March 13, 2018, alleging a McDonald’s franchise in Raleigh doesn’t offer late night walk-in food service, instead requiring purchases be made via the drive-up window. Faircloth contended the chain’s policy of not letting customers enter their restaurants late at night, but rather only providing service and products at the drive-up window, discriminates against the visually impaired who either cannot drive after dusk or cannot drive at all.

Faircloth said he has visited the Raleigh franchise “multiple times,” but “sometimes avoids going to McDonald’s during its late-night hours,” because he would have to drive there, but cannot drive at night. He lives about seven miles from the restaurant, according to court documents.

Faircloth said he falls under the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act, and McDonald’s policy violates the ADA at the Raleigh outlet and elsewhere, denying him the same use of the restaurants enjoyed by customers without similar vision problems. McDonald’s asked Judge Lee to toss the case, contending Faircloth suffered no injury and has no prospect of injury. 

Faircloth countered he should not “be required to undertake the dangerous assignment of trying to obtain food, on foot, in the drive-thru lane to state a claim under the ADA.”

Lee found Faircloth’s case to be threadbare.

Lee noted Faircloth did not claim he tried to access McDonald’s during late-night hours by vehicle or foot, or that he was even ever turned away by McDonald’s at night. Further, Faircloth does not specify how many times he has visited McDonald’s during the day, or how many times he has been dissuaded from visiting late at night.

“With no allegations of past injury or sufficiently specific allegations of future injury, Faircloth lacks standing to sue for violations of the ADA,” Lee concluded..

Lee gave Faircloth 21 days, if Faircloth wishes, to amend his complaint in line with the points made by the judge in the dismissal ruling.

Faircloth is represented by the Chicago firm of Beaumont Costales LLC.

McDonald’s is defended by the Chicago firm of Holland & Knight.

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Organizations in this Story

Beaumont Costales LLC Holland & Knight Chicago Office McDonald's Corporation U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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