Bruce Carlson has been at the forefront of impactful, paradigm-shifting litigation on behalf of aggrieved individuals since the mid-1990s, when, as a young lawyer, he conceived the legal strategy that was used to pursue claims against lead pigment manufacturers whose residential paint products caused pervasive poisoning among an entire generation of inner-city children.
Since those early days of his career, he has always followed some variation on the same straightforward theory of legal advocacy. That is, whether he is representing lead poisoned children, consumers who have been defrauded, employees who have been underpaid, the victims of discrimination, or others whose legal rights need a zealous champion, he seeks to leverage patterns of misconduct that occur within a given industry to effect change at a macro level.
In the civil rights context, Carlson has often prosecuted cases that challenge industry wide non-compliance with a specific legislative mandate. For example, he currently represents a large number of individuals who are dependent upon wheelchairs or scooters for mobility in cases against hotel owners and management companies. These cases assert that the shuttle services provided by the hotels at issue are not wheelchair and scooter accessible, in violation of the express requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Like most of the litigation that Carlson agrees to pursue, the cases address a widespread violation of a clear legislative requirement that has profound implications for the class of individuals whom the subject law was intended to protect. A conversation with any wheelchair dependent traveler will likely elicit multiple horror stories which provide a real world illustration of the consequences of non-compliance with this law. These are the types of cases that Carlson typically elects to prosecute. They have real meaning for real people.
In February 2017, Carlson and his firm’s co-founding partner Gary Lynch tried a mortgage fraud class action in federal court in Pittsburgh. The trial lasted three weeks. During its 15 year pendency, this case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals three times. Carlson argued all three of those appeals. The trial resulted in an award of 24 million dollars, with most class members recovering more than their out-of-pocket losses. This case had real meaning for real people.
In 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that four years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended to require that ATMs be made accessible to consumers with vision impairments, over fifty percent of the national ATM network remained in violation of the law’s requirements. This meant that individuals who are blind or who have significant vision impairments were being left behind by an evolving technology that had made retail banking much more convenient for able bodied consumers. Carlson represented blind clients throughout the country who challenged noncompliance with this law on a large scale. As a direct result of this litigation, most ATMs are now accessible to individuals who are blind or have impaired vision. These cases had real meaning for real people.
Carlson has pursued the same approach in many similar contexts throughout his career. He is particularly interested in the impact of evolving technology on disadvantaged communities, particularly the disabled community. Carlson often participates in litigation that is calculated to ensure that individuals with disabilities share in the promise of new technology, instead of being left behind and effectively treated as second class citizens. He believes that now more than ever, class actions play in integral role in protecting the civil rights of American citizens.