A Pennsylvania woman who suffers from spina bifida has filed a class action lawsuit against Giant Food Stores LLC, alleging the supermarket retailer continues to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to either upgrade existing locations or making sure newly built Giant stores are ADA compliant.
Bala Cynwyd, Pa. attorney Marc L. Ackerman filed the civil action March 5 at the federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of Michele A. Leahy and others similarly situated.
Giant Food Stores operates supermarkets in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia under the names Giant, FoodSource and Martin’s. The company has a total of 180 stores, more than 30 of which are located in Pennsylvania, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff has reasonable grounds to believe that Defendant will continue to subject her, or other disabled individuals, to discrimination in violation of the ADA, given that the Defendant has failed to bring existing stores into compliance for over ten years and has allowed new stores to be constructed or converted that were similarly out of compliance,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiff seeks to maintain the action as a class action, the suit states, with the class consisting of all “mobility impaired/wheelchair-bound persons located in Pennsylvania who have patronized Giant stores … who have been, who were, or have actual knowledge that they would have been, prior to the filing of the Complaint, denied the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, programs, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any of the stores identified herein.”
The class is believed to consist of thousands of members, the suit states.
The complaint lists examples of times during which Leahy experienced both discrimination and “barriers to equal access” at various Giant locations.
One example occurred on Dec. 22, 2011, when Leahy was patronizing the Giant Foods on Second Street Pike in Southampton, Pa. In the suit, Leah accuses the defendant of failing to have a women’s restroom door that would be easy to open and remain open long enough for a wheelchair to pass through the threshold.
“Leahy intends to re-visit this store again in the future for the dual purpose of patronizing and ensuring compliance with the ADA,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit lists 29 other Giant Foods locations in Southeastern Pennsylvania that Leahy has either visited, or plans to visit in the future.
Other examples of non-ADA compliance listed in the suit are not having enough handicapped parking spaces, sinks that are not in compliance, soap dispensers in the restrooms that are too high up off the floor and toilets that are not properly accessible to handicapped persons.
“The discriminatory violations described above are not an exclusive or exhaustive list of the Defendant’s ADA violations, and, upon information and belief, there are other miscellaneous violations of the ADA and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto in Defendant’s facilities,” the lawsuit states.
“The correction of these violations of the ADA is readily achievable, or Defendant is obligated to have its places of public accommodation readily accessible as defined by the ADA.”
The lawsuit claims that the discriminatory features in the defendant’s stores are generally known to the plaintiff and others similarly situated to the point that many will choose not to shop at the supermarkets.
“Many either avoid the facilities because they are aware of the discriminatory barriers they will encounter there, or attend the stores with knowledge that their access to those facilities will be limited by virtue of Defendant’s persistent and pervasive violations of the ADA,” the complaint states.
In addition to seeking class action status, the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and other court costs.
The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01147-SD.