Judge Approves Kmart Accessibility Settlement
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 27, 2006
DENVER, COLORADO--"Yea! It's done," Carrie Ann Lucas told the Rocky Mountain News, after learning that a judge has approved what is being touted as the largest award in an accessibility lawsuit.
Under the settlement, approved by a federal judge Thursday, Kmart will pay $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 to make them more accessible to customers with disabilities over the next 7 1/2 years.
Lucas, who is a community organizer with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, filed a federal complaint in 1999 after running into barriers to access -- including inadequate parking, narrow aisles, fitting rooms and checkout lines -- at several Denver-area Kmart stores. The suit was granted class action last year.
Under the agreement, damages are to 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 -- will be distributed in the form of cash and gift cards.
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 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Kmart has 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.
"It feels great," Lucas said. "I'm thrilled that we are going to have incredible access to Kmart stores in Colorado, across the country and, really, throughout the world."