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Suppose that a customer C sues a shop, S, for some reason or other, whether it be discrimination, negligence, or another reason. Or they make a claim but it gets settled by the business without going to court. Can the business refuse future dealings with the individual supposing that the claim was valid and successful?

It seems to me that they could unless there are provisions preventing retributive refusals that I’m not aware of. And this would be even if the triumphant claim was for discrimination on a protected characteristic.

Because the previous refusal would be unlawful discrimination, but the future would be on the basis of the customer having been litigious and the business not wanting the trouble of that which is not a protected characteristic per se, although perhaps this could be argued indirect discrimination.

Or could the retributive future refusal generally be seen as contempt of court and contempt of the law, in trying to evade future repercussions for any potential unlawful conduct?

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  • 3
    Madison Square Garden Entertainment recently did just that.
    – AndreKR
    Jan 9, 2023 at 18:32
  • Can you provide a reference? Jan 9, 2023 at 21:08
  • 2
    @Seekinganswers here you go: reuters.com/legal/legalindustry/…
    – RonJohn
    Jan 10, 2023 at 1:20
  • 1
    @AndreKR Last I checked, Madison Square Garden wasn't in England-and-Wales.
    – Aron
    Jan 10, 2023 at 1:46
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    They also banned lawyers who reportedly are now trying to get MSG’s liquor license removed. Supposedly that liquor license means they can’t prevent people from entering their premises and buying alcohol for non-alcohol related reasons.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 10, 2023 at 8:03

3 Answers 3

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It depends. I think it would turn sharply on a couple of things.

The underlying reason for the suit

Let us suppose that the business is a lumberyard that sells the customer roof trusses. The insurer has a problem with the trusses for complex engineering reasons: the store says the customer misapplied perfectly good product. Yes, that lumberyard can be expected to "86" that customer (at least, as regards to selling them engineered products LOL.)

However. If the suit is "you refused to sell trusses to me because I am Irish", that is a horse of a different color and should rapidly result in a ruling that "you can't refuse service for that reason". If the shop could simply change the reason to "you sued me", that would utterly defeat the ruling and civil-protection law generally - so yeah, that would be a "contempt of court" scenario.

Alternative sources for that thing

This was also trotted out in the Memories Pizza affair. "We're not the only pizzeria in town". (well there's ONE other in town; all others are at least a 25 minute drive).

The argument is the customer has a variety of alternative sources so they don't need this one. Versus the customer saying "No, I really don't".

But again, this turns on the facts and circumstances. If you're in a protected class, the business really can't turn you away on that basis. (imagine if businesses in the US rural south were able to turn away minorities on the basis of "you have many other choices. In reality, if every business does that, you'd have no choice and it would be a lie.)

I could also see this appearing in Right to Repair litigation. Manufacturers are often the only source for repair parts (e.g. because the are a vertical manufacturer or it contains propriety embedded software)... if a manufacturer litigated to stop a 3rd party repair shop from servicing their equipment, and lost, courts would take a dim view of the company then refusin to sell repair parts to the shop, since that would simply be another attempt to do what the court already said was impermissible.

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A business has the right to refuse service, except in the case of unlawful discrimination. "Sued us" is not a protected characteristic.

Unless part of the settlement was that the business must serve that customer in future, there is no way this could be considered contempt.

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  • This conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Pat W.
    Jan 10, 2023 at 15:19
  • See s17 ea2010. Jul 29, 2023 at 22:56
  • "You don't get served because you are black". (Sues the business owner and wins). "You don't get served because you sued me and won". Doesn't sound right, does it?
    – gnasher729
    Jul 29, 2023 at 23:25
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Section 27 Equality Act 2010 defines precisely this phenomenon as “victimisation,” which it accordingly forbids, so it does not even require going to the issue of contempt of court.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/27

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