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Kmart settles disability access suit

Kmart has agreed to pay $13 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over access for disabled shoppers in seven states, a company spokesman said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Kmart agreed Monday to a $13 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit over access for disabled shoppers, a company spokesman said.

The agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, also gives the company 7½ years to bring its stores nationwide into compliance with federal standards for merchandise, counters, restrooms, fitting rooms and parking lots.

The $13 million includes $8 million in cash and $5 million in gift cards. It will be distributed to class-action plaintiffs in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Texas, whose laws have minimum damages for failing to comply with disability access rules, said plaintiffs’ attorney Amy F. Robertson.

Robertson said the most an individual could receive would range from $100 in Colorado to $8,000 in California, depending on each state’s laws.

Kmart spokesman Chris Brathwaite would not speculate on how many of Kmart’s 1,400 stores might require changes or how much they might cost.

“We need our customers to know that we’re focused on providing a safe and enjoyable shopping environment,” he said.

Brathwaite said the agreement gives Kmart, a subsidiary of Illinois-based Sears Holdings Corp., a reasonable amount of time to alter its stores.

The suit was originally filed in October 1999. Sears Holding was created last year through a $12.3 billion acquisition of Sears, Roebuck and Co. by Troy, Mich.-based Kmart Holding Corp.

“I’m thrilled, to say the least,” said Carrie Ann Lucas, 34, of Denver, who filed the original lawsuit. She uses a wheelchair because of a type of muscular dystrophy.

Lucas said Kmart managers for years had ignored her or didn’t follow through when she told them about cluttered or narrow aisles, inadequate parking or accessible checkout lanes that were closed.

“I commend Kmart for coming around and putting an end to this and really working with us to provide access to people across the country,” she said.

U.S. District Judge John L. Kane must still approve the settlement and people eligible for a share of the $13 million will get a chance to comment on it before it becomes final.