Vallabhapurapu v. Burger King: $19 Million ADA Settlement Approved; Average Award of Over $20K per Class Member

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A California federal judge has granted final approval to a settlement that is estimated to pay the average class member nearly $23,000. The $19 million settlement, one of 2012’s largest per-person settlements, was entered into between fast food giant Burger King and plaintiffs who alleged that Burger Kings fell short of ADA compliance, specifically as to wheelchair and scooter access. See Vallabhapurapu v. Burger King Corp., No. 11-0667 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2012) (Order Granting Motion for Final Approval). The settlement includes substantial injunctive and monetary components, and the negotiated attorneys’ fees are a modest twenty-five percent of the settlement fund. See Joint Final Approval Motion (Oct. 12, 2012). The settlement amount refers only to the cash component, as the parties do not even attempt to value the substantial injunctive components.

In addition to remedial architectural improvements that will bring the 77 Burger King locations covered by the settlement into ADA compliance, the settlement also provides for surveys and other monitoring devices to confirm the efficacy of those improvements. Joint Motion at 7-8. The court’s final approval order lauds the negotiated injunctive relief, noting that “the injunctive relief includes . . . the elimination of all accessibility barriers and the use of mandatory checklists with specific accessibility items for remodeling, alterations, repairs, and maintenance.” Order at 2. Reflecting the settlement’s generous terms, there were no objections and only one class member opted out of receiving the cash payment. Order at 4.

The settlement’s monetary component is approximately double that of comparable ADA settlements. See Joint Motion at 13. Class member payments will be determined as a function of the number of store visits they made, up to a maximum of six, and will be calculated with reference to information provided on the claim forms sent to class members.