Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Judge denies motion to dismiss ADA class action against convenience store chain Casey's

By Amanda Thomas | Apr 3, 2018

BENTON – A federal judge has rejected a bid by a convenience-store chain to dismiss a claim that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In a Feb. 21 decision, District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel denied Casey’s Retail Company’s partial motion to dismiss claims the company, which owns a chain of Casey’s General Stores, wasn’t easily accessible for people with disabilities.

The case stems from a January 2018 complaint brought by Daniel Mellenthin, who is confined to a wheelchair, and Access Now, Inc., a civil rights organization whose members have various mobility disabilities. According to the court order, Mellenthin claims he visited four of the company’s facilities in Illinois and "experienced unnecessary difficulty and risk due to excessive slopes in the parking facilities, and a lack of accessible signage.” 

According to the complaint, "investigators" who examined 15 other locations in Idaho and Illinois, noticed the same barriers.

The investigators cited excessive slopes in the parking lot and/or “accessible” signs mounted less than 60 inches above the finished surface or parking area, in violation of the ADA.

In response, the company argued the case should be dismissed because the claims are based on speculation and the plaintiffs can’t meet their burden of establishing that a nationwide class is appropriate. 

Plaintiffs countered that the motion was premature, saying the appropriateness of their allegations should be determined at the class certification stage. 

Rosenstengel agreed, saying the court will consider Casey’s arguments “on a motion for class certification, once they have been properly developed.”

The company also argued that the plaintiff’s claims are barred by a prior settlement and an amended consent decree that is still in force and must be deemed to include this case.

In Mikesic et al. v. Casey’s General Stores, the company was accused of violating ADA laws by failing to remove “architectural barriers,” which included issues with aisle width, entrance door thresholds, parking spaces, payphone height, restrooms, signage and visual emergency alarms. In a settlement, Casey’s agreed to conduct surveys of pre-ADA stores and make modifications to address those issues.

But the plaintiffs in the Mellenthin case argued the consent decree “is no longer in effect because the settlement has been fully implemented.” 

In her opinion, Rosenstengel determined that the Mikesic case doesn’t include future class members.

“Casey’s has failed to satisfy its burden of establishing the Plaintiffs are included in such a class,” she wrote.

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