HOLLISTER CO. STORES MUST MOVE FORWARD WITH WHEELCHAIR ACCESS IMPROVEMENTS Federal Court Refuses to Stay Injunction Pending Appeal On August 20, 2013, US District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel ordered Abercrombie & Fitch, the owners and operators of Hollister Co. Stores to make 231 stores nationwide accessible to customers who use wheelchairs.
Abercrombie & Fitch filed an appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on September 9, 2013, and in a separate Motion asked the District Court to stay or suspend the injunction until after the appeal is decided. Yesterday, November 15, 2013 the Court issued an Order and found no good reason for Abercrombie & Fitch to delay making its stores accessible.
Hollister Co. Stores were all designed and constructed after the passage of the ADA. They built porches with steps at many of their stores that Abercrombie & Fitch claims makes their customers feel like they are entering a surf shack.
Abercrombie & Fitch argued the Court should wait to see how the appeals court rules before making it spend any money remodeling stores, which they claimed would require entrances to be “torn out and reconstructed, resulting in lost sales and customer goodwill.” Judge Daniel rejected the argument and said that the Defendants have discretion as to how to remodel 77 entrances per year four three years. Recent Abercrombie & Fitch reports show it intends to remodel its Hollister Co. stores soon anyway.
During a webcast with analysts on November 6, 2013 , Senior Vice President of Marketing Craig Brommers introduced a new storefront concept, which would make the entrances accessible to everyone. Abercrombie & Fitch failed to tell the Court. The Court ruled, While the harm to Defendants is primarily economic should I deny the motion to stay, Plaintiffs will continue suffering the indignity of being unable to use the raised porch entrances of 231 Hollister clothing stores located throughout the United States should I grant the motion.
It is unknown how long the appeal will take, but now Abercrombie & Fitch must make 77 stores accessible each year and must complete all by 2017. Kevin Williams, Legal Program Director for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Legal Program, said, “We have been in litigation for four years now. There was and is no reason for Abercrombie & Fitch to build new stores in malls with inaccessible sections. It is time for them to make all of their stores — and all parts of their stores — accessible to all customers. We are pleased with the Court’s ruling.”
Williams, along with Amy Robertson of Colorado’s Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (http://creeclaw.org), have been lead counsel on this case. Plaintiffs in the case are also represented by Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson, PC.