Clear Path Seen to Settling Nike Suit: Fashion Valley Store ‘Demeaned’ Deaf Star

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Cali Bunn (left), also from the University of Hawaii Manoa, was honored by Tulane because of her volleyball skills.

A former Cathedral Catholic volleyball star could be close to settling her case against the sportswear giant NikeOne of her attorneys said Friday,

One Sunday in July Cali BunnI went to the Nike store in Fashion Valley Mall to purchase shoes. But she wasn’t able to read the lips of the sales clerk because he was wearing a mask — which she called an “upsetting experience”This was the result. “anguish.”

Bunn, 22, supports the state’s facial covering mandates, but wants Nike to accommodate hearing impaired people like her. She cites state lawThe federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Legal briefs to move case from Superior Court into federal court, including original lawsuit against Nike. (PDF).

The lawsuit, which was filed in Sacramento Superior Court July 29, is now in federal court. It asks for an order that Nike give clerks transparent masks.

But it also calls for damages allowed under state law — $4,000 per incident. If the case were to become a class action, it could include more than 1,000 Nike customers who have been affected by the pandemic.

“Cali and I are very hopeful that the parties will be able to reach a settlement,” James Clappa long-time family friend and Carlsbad-based attorney.

He suggested that a possible settlement could see Nike equipping some of its sales staff with clear face masks.

“These masks, which are inexpensive and widely available, allow customers with hearing loss to see the wearer’s mouth and facial expressions, which is very important to understanding speech,”Clapp, who is also deaf. “We believe Nike is a socially responsible company that wants to do the right thing for all of its customers, including those with disabling hearing loss.”

Cali Bunn shared her story with Fox5 San Diego 2015 about being bullied at school because of her deafness. Image via YouTube.com

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Friday’s Fashion Valley Nike store manager declined to comment on whether the clerks were using clear masks. Instead, she directed questions to the multinational company based in Oregon. Nike didn’t respond to requests for comment.

But Nike’s legal response to the Bunn complaint offered 17 defenses, including that Nike acted in good faith in meeting mask requirements and Bunn’s request for injunctive relief is “barred because plaintiff has not suffered, and is not at risk of suffering, irreparable harm.”

Nike claims that modifications, auxiliary aids, and accommodations requested by customers are not available. “achievable, reasonable or feasible”And “would result in undue burden.”

That’s because Bunn’s lawyers want the case made a class action potentially involving 3 million Californians with hearing loss. A motion to certify such a class hasn’t been made, however, pending ongoing talks to resolve the case.

What harm did Nike do to Bunn?

The suit says it’s the embarrassment of dealing with a clerk who talked past her.

Bunn visited Fashion Valley’s upper-level store on July 12, according to the suit.

“When she arrived at the store, all of the Nike employees on the sales floor were wearing opaque face masks that obstructed view of their mouths and facial expressions,”The suit was said. “[Bunn] asked a male salesperson for assistance in locating a pair of shoes. Because the salesperson was wearing a mask, [Bunn] could not hear or understand what the salesperson was saying in response to her questions.”

Tulane University student stated that she was having trouble understanding him due to her hearing loss.

“Twice she asked the salesperson to repeat himself,”The suit says. “The salesperson responded by expressing frustration with [Bunn], which plaintiff found embarrassing and demeaning to her. The salesperson did not lower his mask, provide an auxiliary aid or make any other attempt to effectively communicate with plaintiff.”

Bunn, who was 6 feet tall, asked her mother standing nearby what the salesman had said.

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Cali Bunn says she couldn’t read the lips of the mask-wearing salesman at the Fashion Valley Nike store. Photo via nike.com

From then on, the salesman spoke with Bunn’s mother exclusively, the suit says, “causing further embarrassment to plaintiff and depriving plaintiff of the friendly and personalized customer service that Nike’s hearing customers enjoy, solely because plaintiff has a disability.”

Besides not providing staff clear masks, Nike hasn’t trained its salespeople on how to accommodate deaf customers and “who for that reason cannot effectively communicate with Nike employees wearing opaque fabric masks,”The suit says.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland gave both sides more time to reach a settlement — even though the current deadline for a joint site inspection is Nov. 23. (That’s where attorneys from both sides visit one or more Nike retail stores to see how hearing impaired customers are dealt with.)

If a settlement isn’t reached, Rogers’ order said, “the parties shall exchange initial disclosures on or before January 11, 2021 … and conduct a site visit at one or more mutually agreed-upon Nike retail stores on or before January 18, 2021.”

In August, Michael Rubin of San Francisco’s Altshuler Berzon LLPBunn’s counsel Law360 was toldThat was the goal.

“Anyone who is hard of hearing or has a hard of hearing family member knows this is a serious issue,”Rubin stated. “The goal is to get the word out to the retail community in general that, while they should be praised for requiring their workers and customers to wear masks, there are foreseeable consequences for hard of hearing customers and employees.”

In late 2015, a Fox5 San Diego profile of Bunn — then a senior at Cathedral Catholic High School in Carmel Valley — said Bunn was born with 90% hearing loss in her left ear and 50% loss in her right. She recalled being bullied in elementary schools.

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Bunn, an only child, was awarded High School All-America for her beach volleyball skills and lettered four years at Cathedral Catholic. Bunn qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics. She later won a gold beach volleyball medal at the 2016 World Deaf Volleyball Championships, Washington, DC.

Later, she was an indoor volleyball player and helped Team USA win bronze. 2017 DeaflympicsHeld in Samsun (Turkey).

Cali Bunn is pictured on Facebook. She says that she studied communications at Tulane University, New Orleans.

Bunn didn’t respond to a request for comment via Facebook, but she is expected to graduate soon from Tulane — a private research university in New Orleans. Her LinkedIn accountShe studies communications.

She stated that sports provided her with opportunities. “grow my skill set and broaden my horizons for future experiences. I am very fortunate to have grown up in a generation where I am proficient in the social media world.”

She said that she feels the same way. “strongly that I possess many valuable skills that will bring creativity to any environment.”

According to someone familiar with her case, California-born Bunn doesn’t hold a grudge against Nike. According to the suit, Bunn would like to shop in Nike stores in the near future.

She bought shoes at Fashion Valley on that July day.

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