On December 17, 2002 plaintiffs, California residents with disabilities that required them to rely on wheelchairs or scooters for mobility, filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton) against Taco Bell Corporation. Plaintiffs, represented by the Impact Fund and private counsel, claimed the Defendant denied them, on the basis of disability, full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations. Specifically, Plaintiffs claim they had encountered barriers to accessibility including “queue lines” that were too narrow to navigate in a scooter or wheelchair, self-serve soda machines that were too high to access from a wheelchair or scooter; and inaccessible parking, doors, and seating.
On December 23, 2004, the Court (Judge Hamilton) certified a class of: “[a]ll individuals with disabilities who use wheelchairs or electric scooters for mobility who, at any time on or after December 17, 2001, were denied, or are currently being denied, on the basis of disability, full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of California Taco Bell corporate restaurants.” Moeller v. Taco Bell Corp.,
220 F.R.D. 604 (N.D. Cal. 2004). On October 5, 2004, the Court (Judge Hamilton) appointed a Special Master, Bob Evans, as an expert in the Department of Justice Standards For Accessible Design, (28 C.F.R. part 36, app. A, and Title 24 of the 2002 California Building Code) to visit Taco Bell sites, determine compliance with these regulations, and recommend how to remove barriers to accessibility, although he would not determine whether such modifications were “feasible” for purposes of the ADA and other statutes. The parties agreed to each pay half of the Master’s fees.
On December 7, 2004, the Court (Judge Hamilton) denied the defendant’s motion to modify the class definition. Moeller v. Taco Bell Corp.,
No. 02-5849, 2004 WL 5669683 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 7, 2004). The defendant argued that the class should be modified as to state law damages claims because of problems with commonality and typicality. On January 12, 2007, the plaintiffs filed a motion to adopt the findings of the special master. They sought partial summary judgment as to three architectural elements: the queue lines; the force needed to open doors; and the knee clearance of seating areas. On August 8, 2007, the Court (Judge Hamilton) denied in part and granted in part the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. Moeller v. Taco Bell Corp., No. 02-5849, 2007 WL 2301778 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 8, 2007). The Court denied the motion as to the queue lines, finding that auxiliary lines could be equivalent facilitation. But the Court held that almost 400 conditions in more than 160 Taco Bell restaurants violated the ADA and/or the state access laws.
On November 7, 2008, the Court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, which argued the statute of limitations. On December 23, 2009, the Court denied another of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, with little commentary.
On April 4, 2010, the parties stipulated to a bifurcated trial regarding an individual exemplary store. A bench trial was held in June 2011, and in the resulting Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the district court found for the plaintiffs, and ruled that classwide injunctive relief was appropriate. In particular, the court found that the evidence established violations with respect to each of the 12 elements at issue, covering physical access to parking, parking signage, door accessibility, queue accessibility, access to tables and drinks, and restroom access.
The case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero for settlement. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. ___ (2011), prompted the defendants to move for a modification of the class certification order. At the time of this writing, the parties were contending the class certification order. There have been no updates to the docket since April 6, 2012, and it is unclear if or when a hearing on the motions will be held. Elizabeth Daligga - 07/17/2012