Supreme Court Rejects Blind Man's Appeal In Coke Vending Machine Accessibility Suit

Posted On: 11/17/2017

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a blind Louisiana man's appeal to require Coca-Cola Co. to equip vending machines in a way that blind people can access them.

In Emmett Magee v. Coca-Cola Refreshments USA Inc., Magee said that he was unable to make a purchase from glassfront Coca-Cola vending machines at a hospital and bus station because he could not see the items inside in order to select them for purchase. | READ MORE

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act covers retail stores and other "places of public accommodation," requiring them to take steps to ensure that disabled people have access. Magee argued that the soda giant could bring its machines into ADA compliance by retrofitting them with an audio interface and providing tactile features on the keyboard, or creating a smartphone app for the visually impaired.

Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, a division of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co., won the case at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the case, saying that the ADA only applies to companies that own or lease a place of public accommodation, and Coke didn't own the hospital or the bus station where its machines were located.

Magee filed a petition for the Supreme Court to grant certiorari to resolve what his lawyers said was a split among the federal circuits. In an order released on Feb. 27, the Supreme Court asked U.S. Acting Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco to provide the government's standpoint on whether Title III of the ADA applies only to physical spaces that people can enter.

The Trump administration had urged the justices to reject the appeal and said the appeals court reached the right conclusion, Bloomberg reported.