Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister Stores
CitationCCDC, et al. v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., et al., 09-cv-02757-WYD-KMT
Hollister stores are designed and constructed with separate, segregated access for customers who use wheelchairs. Hollister stores, owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, designed and constructed brand new stores with stairs at their main public entrances. Plaintiffs are CCDC and individuals who use wheelchairs who complain about these and other barriers in Colorado Hollister stores. Plaintiffs also allege Hollister stores nationwide have the same policies that prevented access in Colorado stores.
The original complaint was filed November 24, 2009. The Equal Rights Center in Washington, D.C. filed a similar case is the U.S. District Court in Maryland.
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss challenging Plaintiffs’ standing to bring this lawsuit. On May 18, 2011 the Court denied that motion.
On March 16, 2011, CCDC and the Colorado Plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment saying in new construction, separate entrances for people who use wheelchairs are inherently unequal and violate the ADA. On May 31, 2011 The U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in support of Plaintiffs' position. See the Statement below.
On April 9, 2012, the Court certified a nationwide class of "of all people with disabilities who use wheelchairs or electric scooters for mobility who, during the two years prior to the filing of the Complaint (Dkt. 1) in this case, were denied the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any Hollister store in the United States on the basis of disability.”
On August 31, 2011 United States District Court Judge Wiley Daniel ruled that building steps at the entrances of Hollister stores is in violation of the ADA. "Defendants have unnecessarily created a design for their brand that excludes people using wheelchairs from full enjoyment of the aesthetic for that brand. The steps to the center entrance are a legally unacceptable piece of that branding and violate Title III of the ADA." Defendants have requested that the Court vacate that order. Plaintiffs have requested that the Court require Hollister make all of its stores accessible to customers who use wheelchairs.
The Department of Justice issued a Statement of Interest in support of Plaintiffs.
On January 24, 2013 the court held a hearing on the remaining pending motions for summary judgment. The court granted plaintiffs' motion and denied defendants'. This means that all 248 Hollister stores with steps must provide equal accessibility to customers who use wheelchairs. The court ordered the parties to meet and confer and attempt to arrive at a solution that provides equal access within 45 days. If the parties are unable to reach a solution they will request another hearing with the court. A transcript of the hearing can be found below as well as the order granting the Motion for Summary Judgment.
The court ordered the parties to meet and confer regarding the proposed injunction to try to reach agreement. The parties met, but they did not reach agreement. On May 6, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their Submission of Proposed Permanent Injunction.
The Court entered Final Judgment on September 5, 2013.
WE WON! At a hearing on August 16, 2013, Judge Daniel ordered Abercrombie & Fitch to make all of its 231 Hollister stores with steps at their front entrances accessible to customers who use wheelchairs. Unless they appeal, they will have 3 years to do so at a rate of no less than 77 stores per year. They must send us reports of their progress every 6 months. Because Hollister had argued - in defense of the raised porches- they were merely visual displays and not intended to be part of the Hollister experience, Plaintiffs also proposed, in the alternative, that Hollister be permitted to rope off the porches, so that they would be purely a visual experience for all customers and not just those who use wheelchairs. Plaintiffs also proposed that Hollister have the option to ramp the entrance. They have 3 options: make the front entrances level so everyone can enter the store the same way, ramp the entrances, or close off the front entrances to everyone, making it a visual display if they like, and have customers go through the side entrances they use for customers who use wheelchairs.
THEY WILL APPEAL. On September 9, 2013, Defendants filed a Notice of Appeal and a Motion to Stay Injunctive Relief Pending Appeal. This means Abercrombie & Fitch does not intend to make the porch-like entrance spaces accessible any time soon. If the Motion to Stay is granted, no changes to the inaccessible structures will need to me made until after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the issues on appeal and if Plaintiffs win the appeal. The fight continues. Hollister stores' porches may remain inaccessible to customers who use wheelchairs for now.
On November 15, 2013, we received a great ruling in the Hollister Case. Abercrombie & Fitch asked the Court to stop them from having to make their porches accessible until their Appeal is done. The Court said no and agreed with Plaintiffs, that the "worst result of the denial of a stay is that Defendants are required to ensure even better access for individuals who use wheelchairs than what the Tenth Circuit determines that the ADA requires."