• Judge Grants Class Certification in Title III ADA Parking Lot Slope Litigation
  • May 20, 2016 | Author: Alisa N. Carr
  • Law Firm: Leech Tishman - Pittsburgh Office
  • On April 29, 2016, U.S. District Judge Mark R. Hornak adopted the January 27, 2016, Report & Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell (“R&R”) in the matter of Heinzl v. Cracker Barrel Old County Stores, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-1455 (W.D. Pa.), granting class certification to:

    All persons with qualified mobility disabilities, who were denied the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any Cracker Barrel store location in the United States on the basis of disability because such persons encountered accessibility barriers due to Cracker Barrel’s failure to comply with the ADA’s accessible parking and path of travel requirements.

    Id. at Docket No. 126.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires all public accommodations, such as stores, hotels, restaurants, doctors’ offices, day care centers, private educational facilities and theaters, to maintain in operable working condition facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. A public accommodation is required to reasonably modify an institution’s policies, practices or procedures, if necessary, to avoid discrimination.

    Sarah Heinzl, by her attorneys, Carlson Lynch, filed suit against Cracker Barrel, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated, alleging violations of Title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and its implementing regulations arising from Cracker Barrel’s alleged failure to maintain parking lot slopes and paths of travel in compliance with ADA Accessibility Guidelines (“ADAAG”).

    Rather than seeking an injunction that sought to have the covered entity obey the law or to remediate parking lots that have fallen out of compliance, Heinzl requested that Cracker Barrel be compelled to put in place an ADA compliance policy that would effectively take note of ADA violations on an ongoing basis so that they can be remedied and so its stores remain compliant. The District Court held that ADA Title III covered entities are under an ongoing duty to review their places of public accommodation for compliance and to remediate them accordingly.

    In finding that Heinzl had satisfied the four (4) factors to obtain class certification under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a), the Court noted that even when Cracker Barrel’s physical review of its properties identified ADA violations, it failed to employ a reliable procedure to ensure that those violations were promptly remedied. Id. at 38.

    Beyond the legal analysis of class certification, the Court’s Opinion reinforces the need for covered entities to engage in a physical review of its properties and timely remediate ADA violations to remain in compliance and avoid costly litigation.