In the past month, over 40 retailers and restaurants have been served with lawsuits in federal court, alleging that a lack of Braille gift cards discriminates against blind customers in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Law at the intersection of information technology (IT), Internet, software, new media and advertising—this is where Steve has built his career and works with clients to build value, close deals and promote compliance.
Steve chairs a multi-disciplinary group of lawyers, as the laws and marketplace dynamics impacting his clients cut across traditional lines. His areas of focus and experience include: copyright, licensing, contracts, Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud agreements, start-ups and entity formation, advertising, health IT, marketing, social media, privacy, security and breach issues, big data, and machine learning/artificial intelligence (A.I.).
- Christopher & Banks, CRM and Business Intelligence Transactions with Epicor. Represented Christopher & Banks, the women’s apparel retailer with 500+ stores, in its IT, cloud, and licensing contracts with Epicor / ShopVisible as part of its omni-channel business strategy. (Article in Yahoo! Finance.)
- Social Media and Marketing. Represented a major independent advertising agency in contract and compliance matters involving Internet, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram), lead-generation, customer agreements, talent and rights issues. Represented a large health care provider regarding Internet reviews and defamation issues.
- IT Services and Outsourcing. Negotiated IT services, consulting and outsourcing transactions with Wipro, IBM, Gartner Group, Accenture, Infosys, Deloitte, Covansys, and BearingPoint. Example: Represented a private financial services company on cloud-based data storage, including access, security, disaster recovery and service level issues.
- CRM and ERP. Represented clients purchasing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, systems, maintenance and other services from SAP, Oracle, Business Objects, Cognos, PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems, and Salesforce.com.
- Website Accessibility / ADA Defense and Compliance. Defended and advised over 50 website, app, and other technology owners regarding accessibility, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related claims. In addition to obtaining favorable settlements, I have counseled clients on risk-reduction and risk-mitigation programs related to accessible technology, including the use of live-user-audits, scanning tools, and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) / machine learning to improve accessibility. Quoted in Pioneer Press and Report on Medicare Compliance.
- Electronic Medical Records, Practice Management, and Health Technology. Represented over 50 health systems, hospitals, clinics and individual practices in transactions with EMR and other technology vendors such as Epic Systems, GE Healthcare, Allscripts, Cerner, McKesson, eClinicalWorks, Misys, Medinformatix, Eclipsys, NextGen, and A4 Health Systems. Counseled clients on disputes and litigation involving health IT, including poor performance by health IT vendors.
- Consulting and Development Services. Represented Minnesota companies providing consulting, software development, website development, and advertising services to large regional customers such as Target Corp., 3M, and Piper Jaffray.
- M&A Involving Software, Websites, and Customer Data Assets. Represented buyers and sellers in mergers and acquisitions transactions in which software, websites, or customer data are primary assets. Purchase price range: $500,000 to $200 million.
- Example: Advised client Thomson Reuters on its acquisition of legal publisher O’Connor’s.
- Example: Advised consumer rewards website InboxDollars.com in its sale to Prodege.
- Example: Advised GoKartLabs.com in its sale to West Monroe.
- Cloud and Telecom. Represented clients in transactions with the following vendors: Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Google, HP, Double Click, Yahoo, Allant, Campbell Mithun, Avaya, T-Mobile, and Smart Reply.
- Software Audit Defense Including BSA. Represented over 50 small and large businesses in responding to and negotiating claims of illegal software installations and copyright infringement by Oracle, Microsoft, and the BSA (Business Software Alliance).
- Entertainment, Education and Publishing. Steve has been involved in the following film, television, multi-media, education and entertainment projects: Stay Then Go (film, 2014); Ryan Seacrest Productions (represented producer and talent in reality television production in-development); Nobody (film, 2009); A Prairie Home Companion (film, 2006); Building at a Crossroads (documentary, 2006); Million Dollar Idea (reality TV, 2005); Suspension (film, 2007). Represent education and video content platform TheBigKnow.com. Steve also represented Hazelden Publishing, the world’s largest publisher of addiction and recovery work, including related e‑book publishing and apps.
Articles & Presentations
September 24, 2019
Government contractors, are the websites and deliverables you provide to government clients accessible?
National Federation of the Blind Sues Epic Systems: New Chapter in Accessibility Litigation for Employers and Technology Vendors
January 9, 2019
In December 2018, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) sued Epic Systems, a provider of one of the most widely-used electronic medical record systems in the country.
October 12, 2018
The first known website accessibility ADA case has been filed by a Minnesota plaintiff in a Minnesota court. What steps can you take to reduce your risk of getting sued?
July 20, 2018
Sacha Baron Cohen just premiered his latest television work, “Who Is America?”
April 25, 2018
Federal Judge James P. Jones handed website owners, operators and developers a major win in April 2018 in dismissing the website accessibility/Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case brought by blind plaintiff Keith Carroll.
March 23, 2018
Buying a non-accessible website may buy you a class action lawsuit.
January 18, 2018
In a shift from previous tactics, blind plaintiff Juan Carlos Gil sued the underlying platform provider and website developer in his website accessibility/Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit, in addition to the specific business promoted by a particular website.
Chicago Tribune Reports: McDonald’s, Kmart and Grubhub Settle Mobile App and Website Accessibility Discrimination Lawsuits
November 10, 2017
For companies that take substantial steps to improve accessibility the defense of “mootness” is having some success.
Class Action Plaintiff Targets Universities and Colleges for Website Accessibility Claims: Fordham and Three Others Sued in One Week
September 26, 2017
In addition to suing Fordham University, the College of Westchester, Iona College and the College of New Rochelle have also been named in class action lawsuits alleging that inaccessible websites violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.
June 14, 2017
On June 13, Judge Robert Scola, Jr. released his verdict and Order following a non-jury trial: the defendant Winn-Dixie violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as its website was not accessible to the plaintiff Joan Carlos Gil, a blind individual who uses the JAWS screen reader to access website content.
June 7, 2017
Silence can be devastating when it comes to intellectual property rights.
May 24, 2017
In the case of Frazier v. AmeriServ Financial Bank, # 17cv0031, 2017 federal district judge Arthur J. Schwab ruled that Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, applies to AmeriServ Bank’s website.
April 26, 2017
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sent out over 90 letters to brands and influencers for failing to properly disclose a sponsored relationship, compensation or other benefit in relation to a social media endorsement.
12 Deaf Plaintiffs Sue Banner Health for Lack of ASL Interpreters and Lack of Auxiliary Communication Aids
March 20, 2017
Twelve deaf individuals filed a complaint in Federal District Court in Arizona on March 13 against Banner Health, which operates hospitals, surgery centers and urgent care centers in Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.
February 1, 2017
An established plaintiff disability law firm, Carlson Lynch, has sued HCA Holdings in federal court, alleging that websites operated by over 100 hospitals and health care facilities owned by HCA are not accessible to blind individuals and therefore violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
January 18, 2017
The sharp rise of website accessibility litigation and demands that impacted retail, fast-food, financial organizations, banks and education sectors in 2015 and 2016 has expanded to target the healthcare industry, including: hospitals, clinics, health insurance as well as related providers such as drug stores and optical stores.
Financial Services Industry Targeted in Wave of Lawsuit Threats Over Websites Allegedly Inaccessible to the Visually Impaired
November 15, 2016
In a trend that began several years ago and has migrated through several industries, investment firms are among those being targeted by enterprising plaintiffs’ lawyers alleging that the firms’ website are inaccessible to blind or otherwise disabled users. The claim is that the firms are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
November 4, 2016
The Wall Street Journal ran a major story on November 1, 2016, describing the growing trend of lawsuits brought by a handful of plaintiff law firms representing blind individuals against hundreds of website operators including well-known names such as Foot Locker, Toys ‘R’ Us, Brooks Brothers and the NBA.
September 1, 2016
By Steven E. Helland & Karla L. Reyerson
Is your bank’s website accessible to the visually impaired? If it is not – or if you are not sure – now is the time to address this issue as businesses across the country are receiving demand letters and being made parties to legal claims for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What’s Behind E*TRADE Accessibility Initiative and Press Release? Disability Lawyers Target Financial Industry for ADA Claims
July 6, 2016
E*TRADE’s recent press release reads as though E*TRADE simply discovered its inner, more-inclusive, corporate self “E*TRADE Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:ETFC) today announced an initiative to enhance its website, mobile applications, and desktop trading and investing platforms to make them more accessible for customers with disabilities.“
Four Class Actions in 14 Days: Quick Serve, Fast Casual, Restaurant Industry Targeted for Alleged Inaccessible Websites
May 27, 2016
Between April 19 and May 3, 2016, Olive Garden, Domino’s, Potbelly and Dean & Deluca were each named as a defendant in four separate but similar class action lawsuits. The suits, all brought by the Lee Litigation Group, allege that the defendants’ improperly designed websites are inaccessible to blind users and violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as state and local laws.
May 19, 2016
In what appears to be the first court decision of its kind, a California state court held not only that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites, but also that in the case of ColoradoBaggage.com, the website design and features were sufficiently inaccessible to blind users (using screen reader technology) that the site owner violated ADA as well as the California Unruh Act and is liable for monetary damages and injunctive relief.
April 27, 2016
Three blind law school graduates just filed a federal class action lawsuit in Texas, alleging that BarBri, Inc., the leading bar exam test prep company, violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act by “maintaining barriers to the accessibility of its services for blind students who use talking screen reading software and failing to make reasonable accommodations or provide auxiliary aids or services.” See, Stanley V. BarBri, Inc.
February 8, 2016
Oklahoma-based pizzeria Mazzio’s Italian Eatery filed a preemptive “declaratory” lawsuit in federal district court against the Carlson Lynch law firm on February 2, 2016. Mazzio’s, LLC v. Carlson, Lynch, Sweet & Kilpela, LLC, N. Dist. Oklahoma, Case No. 16-cv-59-CVE-TLW.
January 18, 2016
As in past years, the Minnesota Bar Association’s “Midwest Legal Conference on Privacy & Data Security“ was fantastic.
December 28, 2015
Patagonia, Ace Hardware, Aeropostale, Bed Bath & Beyond and Estee Lauder are the most recent companies sued by blind plaintiffs, alleging that the retailers’ websites are not accessible to the blind as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In light of the uncertain state of the law, the following actions may reduce risk for website operators, even though such actions may not be legally required.
Department of Justice Delays Regulations on Website Accessibility – Plaintiff Firms Send Demands Against Website Operators
December 2, 2015
On November 19, the Department of Justice announced it is further delaying issuing guidance on what is required of website operators to be compliant under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
October 8, 2015
The Court of Justice of the European Union effectively invalidated the E.U. – U.S. “Safe Harbor” program in a decision released on Tuesday.
FTC Warning to Brain and Fitness App and Software Makers: Game / App Must Remove Unscientific Claims of Memory and Mental Fitness Improvement
January 27, 2015
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has signaled its willingness to regulate and scrutinize claims of improved physical and mental fitness made by software and app makers.
December 19, 2014
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) targets small and mid-size businesses, extracting settlements with threats of huge damages. In this article, you will be provided a legal background on software license disputes and tips to consider in interacting with the BSA.
Responding to Software Audits by the BSA, SIIA and Other Technology Vendors: Legal Tips and Strategy
November 21, 2014
Software audits, or inquiries by a software vendor regarding legal use of a software license, can be an intimidating experience. This article addresses the most common issues a business might experience when responding to a software audit, including tips on what to do and what not to do.
TRUSTe, Inc. Not So Trustworthy: Privacy Certification Program Pays $200,000 to Settle FTC Charge It Failed to Conduct Annual Recertifications As Promised
November 20, 2014
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that the for-profit privacy certification business TRUSTe, Inc. agreed to pay $200,000 to settle allegations of false or misleading statements regarding its Privacy Seal Program.
PUBLICATIONS & PRESENTATIONS
- Co-Presenter, “Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation: Trending Issues for Businesses,” Fredrikson & Byron’s 35th Annual Employment & Labor Law Seminar, November 7, 2019
- Quoted in “Virtual Version of ADA Noncompliance is Fertile Ground for Lawsuits,” Report on Medicare Compliance, April 29, 2019
- Presenter, “Health Industry Website Accessibility: 2019 Lawsuit Trends and Practical Steps to Reduce Risk and Promote Compliance for Websites, Apps, Portals and Connected Devices,” Fredrikson & Byron Health Law Webinar Series, April 24, 2019
- Co-Presenter, “Trending Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation Issues for Businesses Under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Fredrikson & Byron program co-hosted with Accessible360, April 18, 2019
- Co-presenter, “Making Your Website Accessible and ADA Compliant,” Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association Workshop, September 26, 2018
- Co-presenter, “#CanWeSayThat? AdLaw Answers from Industry Pros,” Fredrikson & Byron Advertising Law Seminar, February 27, 2018
- Co-presenter, “Electronic Health Record: Contracting and Data Security,” Fredrikson & Byron Health Law Webinar Series, January 10, 2018
- Co-presenter, “Website Accessibility: Case Studies, State of the Law and Concerns for Corporate Counsel,” Association of Corporate Counsel Minnesota Lunch & Learn, October 11, 2017
- Quoted in “What do Snooki, Lindsay Lohan, and J.Lo have in common? The FTC put them on notice,” Boston Globe, May 9, 2017
- Co-presenter, “Is Your Website ADA Compliant and What To Do if it Isn’t,” Bank Holding Company Association (BHCA) Spring Seminar, May 2, 2017
- Presenter, “Nondiscrimination Update: Website Accessibility, Recent ADA Litigation and Section 1557 of the ACA,” Health Law Webinar Series, March 8, 2017
- Speaker, “Website Accessibility Litigation Explosion: Practical Tips from Legal and IT,” 3rd Annual Corporate Counsel Institute, February 10, 2017
- Presenter, “Website Accessibility – Understanding the Law, Responding to Demands, & Practical Steps to Reduce Risk for Retail Websites Webinar,” Minnesota Retailers Association, December 6, 2016
- “Community Banks Threatened with Lawsuits for Alleged Inaccessible Websites,” co-authored with Karla Reyerson, Minnesota Bankers Association Magazine, November/December 2016 (used with permission of the Minnesota Bankers Association)
- Co-presenter, “ADA Website Accessibility and Public Accommodations,” Fredrikson & Byron’s 32nd Annual Employment & Labor Law Seminar, October 26, 2016
- “Privacy and Security Risks in Vendor and Supply Chain Contracts,” Midwest Privacy & Data Security Conference, Minnesota Bar Association, January 14, 2016
- “Got an App for That! Health Plans in the Business of Consumer IT,” co-presented with Katherine M. Brennan, Optum Consumer Solutions Group, 2015 Health Law Institute, Minnesota Bar Association CLE, June 4, 2015
- “How to Negotiate Your Starting Salary: Inside Tips and Mythbuster Edition,” pro bono presentation for University of Minnesota Alumni Association, Carlson School of Management, April 28, 2015
- “Legal Guide to Privacy and Data Security,” Minnesota State Bar Association CLE, Legal Guide to Privacy and Data Security, August 18, 2014
- “Data Privacy & Security, Legal and Financial Implications,” at Traust Executive Round Table, co-presented with Teresa Thompson, June 26, 2014
- “Freelancers Don’t Need Contracts,” co-presented with Ryan Miest, Beers with Fred Series @ CoCo, June 17, 2014
- Moderator, “Doing Business in the Cloud,” Fredrikson & Byron’s Practical Perspectives, March 20, 2014
- “Responding to a BSA or Vendor Software Audit, and Software Asset Management Strategy,” at Minnesota Computer & Technology Law Institute, November 19, 2013
- “Data Privacy and Security: A View from the Board Room and C-Suite.” Data Privacy and Security for In-House Counsel, March 21, 2013
- “Legal and Business Tips for Negotiating an EHR Contract,” Health Law Webinar, April 13, 2011
- Quoted in “What to Do When You Receive a BSA Audit Letter,” by Ericka Chickowski, Baseline, January 18, 2008
- “Modern Legal Practice and the Internet,” American Bar Association, Technology in the Workplace subcommittee, discussion paper with Paul Landry, 1998
Honors & Education
- University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 1996, cum laude
- Vassar College, A.B., 1991, cum laude
- University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 1998-1999
- Minnesota, 1996
- U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, 1996
- Minnesota State Bar Association, North Star Lawyer, 2015
- Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, “40 Under Forty”
- Minnesota Law & Politics, Rising Star
- International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP)
- Minnesota Medical Group Management Association
- Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association
- Minnesota State Bar Association
- Hennepin County Bar Association, Computer Law Section
- Minnesota Film and TV Board, Past President of the Board
- Faith’s Lodge, past Board Member
- IFP Minneapolis/St. Paul, past Board Member
- Givenet, past Board Member
- Magazine Club, Co-Founder
- Girl Scouts, Minneapolis 1st Grade Troop, Assistant Troop Leader