News & Events

Chaffetz Lindsey Partners with NYLPI to Earn Favorable Opinion in Pro Bono Case for Gluten Free Child

Where Advocacy Meets Business

June 2019 – The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals published a favorable opinion in an appeal in which Chaffetz Lindsey acted as pro bono amici counsel in partnership with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) in the case of JD v. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Plantiff-appellant J.D. is a child on a strict gluten free diet, who brought a homemade, gluten-free meal into a restaurant while on a school field trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Citing health code concerns, the restaurant refused to let J.D. eat the homemade meal inside and offered a gluten-free meal prepared by the restaurant’s chef. J.D. declined the offer because he didn’t trust the restaurant to safely prepare the meal to his specific needs, and chose to eat his homemade meal outside and apart from his classmates.

J.D. and his father ultimately sued the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which owns and operates the restaurant, alleging that J.D. is a person with a disability and the Colonial Williamsburg discriminated against him by excluding him from the restaurant and refusing to modify its policy against outside food.

The district court granted summary judgment to Colonial Williamsburg, but the appellate court reversed and remanded the ruling, holding in relevant part that the district court erred in finding that J.D’s requested modification was unnecessary. Chaffetz Lindsey filed a Brandeis brief that informed the court of the diligence required by those who suffer from gluten-related disorders and the severity of the consequences caused by even minimal gluten exposure.

Ted DeBonis, who contributed to the brief, said, “This was a fantastic opportunity to continue our partnership with NYLPI and apply our skills to a good cause.  I know for several members of the Chaffetz Lindsey team, myself included, the experience was personally very rewarding because we have loved ones who have some of the same or similar medical conditions that the plaintiff-appellant in this action suffers from.  So it was a really special opportunity for us and we’re obviously very happy with the outcome.”

The Chaffetz Lindsey team included Ted DeBonisLidia Rezende, Karen Baswell, Douglas Gibson (Director of Information & Legal Support), and Farrell Brody (former Chaffetz Lindsey Associate). The court’s opinion can be found here. The case has received international media coverage, including articles from the Daily MailWashington PostABA Journal, and TODAY.

NYLPI exists to advance equality and civil rights, with a focus on health justice, disability rights, and environmental justice through community lawyering and partnerships with the private bar. NYLPI has served as a resource for low income, community-driven legal representation since 1976. Chaffetz Lindsey has a proud history of partnering with NYLPI to serve the community. Partner Charlie Scibetta sits on the Board of Directors.

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