Kmart Agrees To Record ADA Access Settlement
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 14, 2006
DENVER, COLORADO--Shopping for "blue light specials" at Kmart will become a more enjoyable experience for shoppers with disabilities over the next 7 1/2 years, thanks to the efforts begun by three Colorado disability advocates.
One of those advocates was Carrie Ann Lucas, a community organizer with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. Lucas, who used crutches because of a neuromuscular disease, filed a federal suit in 1999 after running into barriers to access at several Denver-area Kmarts, including inadequate parking, aisle access, fitting rooms and checkout lines.
"It was like they didn't want my money," Lucas told the Denver Post.
In May of 2000, plaintiffs Julie Reiskin and Debbie Lane were added to the suit, alleging a class action under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit was finally granted class action status last year.
In what is being touted as the largest award in an accessibility lawsuit, the law firm of Fox & Robertson announced Monday that Kmart has agreed to settle out of court, paying $13 million in damages to shoppers, $3.25 million in legal fees, and a projected $60 million to retrofit 1,400 Kmart stores across the country.
The damages would be distributed to class members -- customers or potential customers in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Texas -- who believe they have faced accessibility-related disability discrimination at Kmart stores. The money -- ranging from $50 to $8,000 each -- would be distributed in the form of cash and gift cards.
U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane must still approve the settlement. He is scheduled to hear from both parties on March 22, and is expected to announce his decision in late July.
If Kane approves the agreement, the plaintiffs' lawyers will publish notices telling eligible people with disabilities how they can participate.
In addition to paying damages, Kmart agreed to remodel their stores to ensure access to merchandise, counters, restrooms, fitting rooms and parking to comply with the ADA. Kmart also initiated a plan to provide two-way communication devices to customers with disabilities to allow them to ask for help retrieving merchandise, along with a website through which Kmart and the plaintiffs will seek feedback on how the settlement is being implemented.
"We have been very pleased with Kmart's approach to the resolution of this case. We hope that all companies will act as responsibly as Kmart has in addressing these issues," said Amy Robertson, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
"Kmart agrees to settle lawsuit on accessibility" (Rocky Mountain News)
"Lucas v. Kmart" Press release, fact sheets, settlement agreement (Fox & Robertson, P.C.)