Judge denies class certification in ADA lawsuit against Kohl's

By Pam Wright | May 30, 2017

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. District Court for Northern District of Illinois has denied class certification in a lawsuit alleging Kohl’s Corp. and Kohl’s Department Stores Inc. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York Human Rights Law.

A group of plaintiffs represented by the Equal Rights Center alleged the department store failed to provide accessible counters, restrooms, fitting rooms and adequate accessible parking for customers with disabilities. They further alleged the store failed to adhere to its own “Shopability Standards,” which stipulates minimum spacing distance between merchandise racks.

Judge Ronald A. Guzmán, in a May 2 decision, ruled that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that a nationwide class satisfied Rule 23.

In order to satisfy the rule, it is the burden of the plaintiff(s) to plead and prove an adequate class definition, ascertainability, numerosity, commonality, typicality, among other requirements.

Under commonality, Guzmán said the plaintiffs did not establish that members of the class had suffered the same injury.

"Plaintiffs have not pointed to evidence of systemic policies or procedures,” Guzmán noted. "Plaintiffs identify 12 individuals who have reported experiencing difficulty in accessing merchandise in approximately 17 different stores. However, plaintiffs have not directed the court to any evidence that Kohl’s, as a practice or policy, routinely required employees to ignore complaints or disregard its Shopability Standards."

Guzmán also denied class certification based on the plaintiffs’ failure to meet the numerosity requirement.

Apart from the plaintiff’s inability to satisfy Rule 23, Guzmán said because each store is different and since there is a lack of commonality between them, it "makes it impossible to craft one injunction that remedies all injuries to the class in one stroke," according to the ruling.

"Plaintiffs do not indicate how an injunction containing such broad and non-specific language could be enforced given that the layout of over 1,100 stores could and do vary on a daily basis,” Guzmán wrote. 

"Because Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that a nationwide class under the proposed definition meets all of the requirements of Rule 23 or is the appropriate vehicle for obtaining relief, the court denies the motion for class certification."

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