SOURCE: Law Offices of Miguel A. Custodio, Jr.

June 17, 2013 09:00 ET

Court Orders Class Action Lawsuit to Proceed Against Starbucks With Respect to All Retail Coffee Shops Allegedly in Violation of Americans with Disabilities Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - Jun 17, 2013) - United States District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson ruled on Friday that a class action lawsuit against Starbucks Corporation alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Unruh Civil Rights Act may proceed to include all California stores containing pickup counters in excess of the height permitted under the ADA. 

The underlying class action lawsuit was filed on May 10, 2012 and seeks to force Starbucks to lower the height of its pickup counters. The plaintiffs contend that these higher counters, which are used to pass hot liquids, discriminate against disabled customers and pose safety risks. Starbucks claimed that the plaintiffs only had standing to proceed against stores that they had visited. The Court's ruling rejected this position and was in conjunction with the plaintiffs' request to amend their Complaint to allege that the purported violations of the ADA and Unruh Act resulted from common design plans implemented by Starbucks at its stores.

The Complaint alleges that Starbucks has known about the problems with its counters since at least 2005, yet "eight years later, hundreds of stores in California still have unlawful counters." In the interim, Starbucks has continued to discriminate "against tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of disabled patrons in wheelchairs."

Vineet Dubey, counsel representing the putative class action members, said, "It is an unfortunate reality that it often takes a class action lawsuit to force large-scale violators to address systematic abuses. We hope that Friday's ruling will expedite proceedings and ultimately force Starbucks to immediately lower the beverage pick-up counters at all of its coffee shops."

Cliff Burrows, Starbucks group president, Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and Teavana, and executive sponsor of Starbucks Access Alliance, a group at Starbucks dedicated to accessibility issues, speaks to the counter height issue in this video posted on Starbucks' corporate site, stating "steps we've taken at store development across the globe, have introduced a lower-height hand-off plane." 

Dubey addressed the claims by Mr. Burrows saying, "We were surprised to learn that Starbucks has known about the issues that its high counters posed for customers in wheelchairs and even claimed to have introduced lower hand-off counters (referenced in this Starbucks blog). Yet, years later, stores across the country still have these inaccessible counters, creating problems and safety risks for disabled individuals."

As part of their case, the plaintiffs claim that in order to build out stores quickly and inexpensively, Starbucks created pre-fabricated modular pieces that were designed to adapt to any store size. Starbucks then used the pieces, including the high pickup counters, in stores throughout the country. Starbucks has denied that the widespread issue with the height of its pickup counters resulted from a common design. 

For information about the Starbucks class action lawsuit, please contact:
Vineet Dubey, at the Law Offices of Miguel A. Custodio, Jr.


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