Taco Bell agrees to make its restaurants in California fully accessible to wheelchairs in settlement of 12-year-old lawsuit, attorneys for plaintiffs say
April 25, 2014
(San Francisco Chronicle)
– Taco Bell has agreed to make its fast-food restaurants in California fully accessible to wheelchairs in a settlement of a 12-year-old lawsuit, attorneys for disabled customers announced Thursday.
The settlement follows a federal judge's ruling in 2011 that found a Taco Bell in San Pablo, chosen by the opposing sides as a statewide example, lacked adequate accommodations for wheelchairs and motorized scooters.
Among other things, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton said in her 2011 ruling, the entry doors were too heavy and closed too quickly, the serving aisles were too narrow and the tables were too low for the knees and legs of customers in wheelchairs. Some restrooms, she said, lacked adequate floor space, and parking lot spaces were too narrow for wheelchair vans.
Hamilton decided at the time not to issue a statewide injunction, however, and the suit - filed in 2002 - was scheduled to go to trial in her Oakland court on Friday.
The settlement, which requires Hamilton's approval, also includes $50,000 for each of the original four plaintiffs and about $5 million in attorneys' fees, said attorney Tim Fox, executive director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, which represented the plaintiffs.
Plaintiff Katherine Corbett of Richmond said she has encountered numerous obstacles for her wheelchair at Taco Bells. "I love the food at Taco Bell and I am delighted that I will be able to enjoy it without any barriers," Corbett said in a statement released by her lawyers.
Fox said the company has already taken significant steps to improve access for the disabled people. The settlement requires store managers to conduct daily surveys of accessibility, with additional reviews by compliance monitors every six months.
The agreement covers the 41 restaurants Taco Bell owns in California. The company transferred about 180 outlets in the state to franchise-holders several years ago, and "I hope the franchisees follow their model," Fox said.
A lawyer for the company was unavailable for comment.
Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @egelko