United States District Court, District of Columbia
S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge.
suit against Defendant Bank of America, N.A.
(“Defendant” or “Bank of America”),
Plaintiff Darcy White alleges violation of (i) Title III of
the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
12101 et seq. (the “ADA”); (ii) §
504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701
et seq. (“§ 504”); and (iii) the
District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§
2-1401.01 et seq. (the “DCHRA”).
consideration of the parties’ cross-motions for summary
judgment and briefs in support thereof and in opposition
thereto, and for the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiff’s motion is hereby DENIED, and
Defendant’s motion is hereby GRANTED as to (i)
Plaintiff’s claims relating to Defendant’s call
center policy and now-defunct overnight delivery policy; (ii)
Plaintiff’s claims under Title III of the ADA, §
504 and the DCHRA for injunctive relief from
Defendant’s Fraud Department guideline; and (iii)
Plaintiff’s remaining claim for compensatory damages
under § 504.
parties’ motions for summary judgment as to
Plaintiff’s remaining claim for compensatory damages
under the DCHRA are hereby DENIED. The court will retain
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s DCHRA claim
for compensatory damages, but will order a new round of
summary judgment briefing limited solely to that claim.
Plaintiff’s Interactions With Bank Of America
initial matter, Defendant acknowledges that Plaintiff, who is
deaf and who lives in Washington, D.C., suffers from a
disability. (See, e.g., Def.’s Mot.
at 7 n.1). Defendant also acknowledges that its bank branches
are places of public accommodation under both the ADA and the
DCHRA. (See, e.g., id.).
September 28, 2011, while she was at a coffee shop,
Plaintiff’s wallet was stolen. (Compl. ¶ 17;
Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 1 at 22:12-22). The wallet contained
Plaintiff’s Bank of America credit card, and may have
also contained a blank check from her Bank of America
checking account. (Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 1 at 24:12-14,
29:16-21; Pl.’s Mot. Ex 4). Plaintiff reported the
theft to the police, and one of her friends called Defendant
on her behalf to request that a hold be put on the credit
card. (Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 1 at 24:23-25:7; Pl.’s Mot.
Ex. 4). Plaintiff did not have any problems conducting the
call through her friend, and a hold was successfully placed
on her account. (Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 1 at 25:8-10,
28:15-17). During the call, Plaintiff learned that her credit
card had already been used to make $60 worth of fraudulent
charges, and was advised that she should visit a local Bank
of America branch “to handle the next steps.”
(Id. at 25:14-19, 28:1-8).
next day, Plaintiff went to her local branch, where she
opened a new checking account into which she transferred the
funds from her old, potentially compromised checking account.
(Id. at 29:1-31:13). Plaintiff did not close her old
checking account because she was expecting a direct deposit
the next day which could not be redirected to her new
checking account in time. (Id. at 30:17-31:20).
Accordingly, Plaintiff was given the number for
Defendant’s Check and Digital Fraud Claims Department
(the “Fraud Department”) (id.), which
“handles customer accounts with reported fraudulent
activity.” (Def.’s Mot. Ex. 10 ¶ 4).
Plaintiff was directed to call the Fraud Department after the
direct deposit came through in order to get those funds
transferred into her new checking account. (Pl.’s Mot.
Ex. 1 at 30:17-31:20).
following day, after the direct deposit had cleared,
Plaintiff called Defendant’s Fraud Department to
transfer the newly-deposited funds out of her old checking
account and into her new checking account, and to close her
old checking account, as she had been directed to do.
(Id. at 33:2-12, 34:17-22). Plaintiff used what is
referred to as a “relay service” to make the
call. (Id. at 33:2-10).
who are hearing-impaired can make phone calls in a number of
different ways. Traditionally, they employed devices called
“text telephones” (“TTYs”), which
Plaintiff now considers “outdated.” (Compl.
¶¶ 30-31). More common today are “relay
services, ” which insert a third party into the phone
call for the purpose of relaying messages back and forth
between the hearing-impaired caller and their hearing
counterpart. IP relay services, for example, allow anyone
with an internet connection to type messages to a
“communications assistant” using a chat-like
window in their browser. The communications assistant then
orally relays those typed messages to the hearing person on
the other end of the phone call, and types back to the
hearing-impaired person whatever the hearing person says in
prefers to use a relay service called Purple, which
specializes in video relay. (See Pl.’s Mot.
Ex. 1 at 33:6-10). Video relay “works much like a video
call that any caller might make using a digital platform such
as Skype or Apple Face Time”:
The video call is placed to an American Sign Language
interpreter, employed by the [video relay service] provider,
who then makes a standard voice call to the video
caller’s hearing recipient. The interpreter signs with
the caller via the visual connection and speaks with the
recipient via the voice connection, translating messages back
Sorenson Commc’ns, Inc. v. FCC, 765 F.3d 37,
40 (D.C. Cir. 2014).
video relay call through Purple on September 30, 2011 was
initially accepted by the Fraud Department. (Pl.’s Mot.
Ex. 1 at 35:9-11). She was asked a number of security
questions, all of which she answered correctly, and was then
transferred to someone else who asked her the same security
questions, which she again answered correctly. (Id.
at 35:12-21, 37:1-18). Plaintiff was then told that the Fraud
Department could not accept third-party calls, and that,
“for security reasons, ” she would have to either
call back using a TTY or go to her local Bank of America
branch to conduct her business. (Id. at 37:18-38:3,
39:9-25). Unfortunately, Plaintiff’s TTY was not
working at the time, so later that same day, Plaintiff took
time off from work to go to her local Bank of America branch,
where she was able to get the funds transferred to her new
account and close her old account. (Id. at
41:1-42:6, 44:1-4; Pl.’s Reply at 8).
September 30, 2011, Plaintiff has continued to bank with
Defendant, but she has not tried to contact the bank again
via phone, opting instead to visit its branches in person.
(Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 1 at 45:23-46:7). Plaintiff admits that
she suffered no monetary damages as a result of this
incident, and states only the following as to her damages:
“It was humiliating and embarrassing, it was
discriminatory and caused a lot of stress, and I had to take
time off of work, which hearing people wouldn’t have to
do, so that I could conduct my business with the bank.”
(Id. at 46:8-24).
The Bank Of America Policies Challenged By Plaintiff
revealed that in September 2011, Bank of America’s
Fraud Department had a guideline prohibiting its associates
“from conducting banking transactions by telephone
calls made through third-party vendors, such as a relay
service, for security reasons, ” given that
“highly sensitive and private information related to
the [bank’s] customers are exchanged” through a
third-party during such calls. (Def.’s Mot. Ex. 10
¶¶ 5-6). Specifically, the Fraud Department
guideline stated: “Do not accept calls from
3rd party TDD (Telecommunications Device for the
Deaf) vendors.” (Def.’s Mot. Ex. 5). The
guideline did, however, enable associates in the Fraud
Department “to conduct all banking transactions”
if a customer called via TTY because, “[w]hen a
customer calls through the Bank’s TTY line, a