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A lawsuit alleging the Steak ‘n Shake restaurant chain violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not having adequate accessibility for handicapped patrons has been granted class action status.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell of the Western District of Pennsylvania granted lead plaintiffs Christopher Mielo and Sarah Heinzl’s motion for class approval April 27 in their case against Steak ‘n Shake Operations Inc.
The class includes “[a]ll persons with qualified mobility disabilities who were or will be denied the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any Steak ‘n Shake restaurant location in the United States on the basis of a disability because such persons encountered accessibility barriers at Steak’n Shake restaurants where defendant owns, controls and/or operates the parking facilities.”
R. Bruce Carlson of Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kilpela represents the class plaintiffs and did not return a call seeking comment.
Maria Greco Danaher of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart represents Steak ‘n Shake and also did not return a call seeking comment.
The lead plaintiffs are both paraplegic and require the use of wheelchairs. According to Mitchell’s opinion, the two visited multiple Steak ‘n Shake locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio and found the restaurants had architectural barriers in the parking lots preventing easy access to wheelchairs.
In their lawsuit, they claimed the lack of accessibility violated Title III of the ADA, which “prohibits discrimination against the disabled in the full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations.”
“Plaintiffs contend that defendant has adopted an ADA compliance policy that largely ignores its obligation to ensure its parking facilities become and remain accessible to individuals with disabilities,” Mitchell said. “Specifically, when a restaurant is built, defendant does not conduct an independent post-construction assessment to determine whether architectural barriers actually exist in its parking facilities, but rather, relies exclusively on purportedly ADA complaint design plans as its sole means of ensuring a parking facility is constructed in compliance with the ADA.”
Steak ‘n Shake argued that the court should interpret the ADA as limiting the company’s restaurant maintenance obligations to correcting temporary mechanical failures.
But Mitchell said that “[f]or the purpose of deciding the motion before us, we agree with plaintiffs.”
Mitchell found that the plaintiffs satisfied all of the requirements for a class action, including numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation.