The Braille Monitor                                                                                               March, 2002

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Public Notice of Settlement Agreement

                                                  

From the Editor: The Braille Monitor has agreed to publish the following notice in order to assure that members of the blindness community are aware of the terms of the settlement agreement. Here it is:

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA

                                                  

Case No. 00-14017-CIV-MOORE

Magistrate Judge Lynch

                                                  

ACCESS NOW, INC., and SHERI KOORS, on their own behalf and on behalf of all those similarly situated, Plaintiffs, vs. CLAIRE'S STORES, INC., and CLAIRE'S BOUTIQUES, INC. Defendants.

                                                  

NOTICE OF CLASS CERTIFICATION, PROPOSED SETTLEMENT, AND FAIRNESS HEARING

TO:   ALL PERSONS WHO HAVE BEEN OR WILL QUALIFY AS HAVING A "DISABILITY," AS THAT TERM IS DEFINED BY 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2), OR WHO ARE ASSOCIATED WITH A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY, AND WHO HAVE BEEN OR WILL BE A VISITOR, CUSTOMER, PATRON, OR GUEST TO A CLAIRE'S STORE OR FUTURE STORE, OR OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN OR WILL BE ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY THE DESIGN OR CONSTRUCTION OF, OR THE POLICIES, PRACTICES, OR PROCEDURES RELATING TO THE PHYSICAL ACCESSIBILITY, OR THE PROVISION OF AUXILIARY AIDS AND SERVICES OF THE FOLLOWING PREMISES:

All retail store establishments owned and/or operated by defendants, CLAIRE'S STORES, INC., and CLAIRE'S BOUTIQUES, INC., which are located in any state, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 12102(3), and which, without limitation, operate under any of the following names: Claire's, Claire's Boutiques, Claire's Etc., Claire's Accessories, Icing, Icing by Claire's, Afterthoughts, Dara Michelle, Topkapi, L’Accessories, Accessory Place, Joan Bari, Velvet Pixies, Carimar, and Reflexions.

This notice is given pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e). A Fairness Hearing on the matters hereinafter set forth is scheduled before the Honorable Michael Moore, United States District Judge, in Miami-Dade County, Florida on the 2nd day of May, 2002, at 2:15 p.m. at 99 N.E. 4th Street, Suite 1061, Miami, Florida 33128.

You may be a member of the class of persons defined above ("Settlement Class") covered by a proposed settlement of this class action. This notice identifies the persons and entities covered by the proposed Settlement Agreement, describes the case and the benefits of the proposed Settlement Agreement, advises the Settlement Agreement class members that the Court will hold a hearing to decide whether to approve the proposed Settlement Agreement, and explains how you may object to the Settlement Agreement. This notice describes your legal rights in connection with the hearing and this lawsuit. All settlement class members who do not timely object will be bound by the resulting orders.

PLEASE READ THIS NOTICE CAREFULLY.

The following recitation does not constitute findings or determinations of the Court.

I. Description of the Litigation

This is an action in which the plaintiffs claim that CLAIRE'S STORES, INC., and CLAIRE'S BOUTIQUES ("CLAIRES") own and operate the premises listed above. The plaintiffs further claim that the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et seq., requires modifications to those premises and other relief.

Plaintiff Access Now, Inc., is a Florida not for profit corporation whose membership consists of individuals with disabilities recognized by the ADA. The purpose of Access Now, Inc., is to represent individuals with disabilities through enforcement of the ADA and standards promulgated pursuant to the ADA. Sheri Koors is an individual with a disability under the ADA. The sole purpose of the plaintiffs in bringing this litigation is to require the defendants to bring their premises into compliance with the ADA and to recover the costs and attorneys' fees that they have incurred in bringing this action. No monetary damages of any sort are sought or are permitted for private litigants under Title III of the ADA.

                                                  

CLAIRES admits that it owns and operates certain of the premises that are the subject of this action but denies that Title III of the ADA requires modification of those premises or any other relief. CLAIRES, however, desires to enhance the accessibility of its premises for individuals with disabilities recognized under the ADA, and to avoid litigation in which plaintiffs claim that defendant's premises are not accessible to individuals with disabilities recognized under the ADA.

Plaintiffs and CLAIRES have reached a settlement agreement for the purpose of satisfying the goals of both the plaintiffs and CLAIRES. A part of the settlement provides that this action will be maintained by the plaintiffs on behalf of all of the members of the class to which this notice is addressed.

II. Description of the Settlement Agreement

The parties have agreed for settlement purposes, and to avoid the expense and uncertainty of continued litigation relating to the disputed claims, to the terms of the proposed Settlement Agreement, as summarized below.

Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, CLAIRES has agreed that it will make substantial modifications to its premises and to its policies and practices relating to those premises in order to enhance their accessibility to individuals with disabilities. The plaintiffs have agreed that they will not seek further modifications of the premises that are the subject of this action. The plaintiffs and CLAIRES have further agreed that future premises and alterations to existing or future premises also may be governed by this agreement. The agreement provides a mechanism by which the plaintiffs may inspect the agreed modifications upon their completion and resolve any disputes that might arise with respect to whether the modifications conform to the agreement.

Class counsel's fees and costs will be paid by CLAIRES, not by class members.

If the Court approves the proposed settlement, you will be forever barred from contesting the fairness, reasonableness, or adequacy of the Settlement Agreement or from pursuing the claims against CLAIRES as identified in the Settlement Agreement.

Counsel for the plaintiffs believe that the proposed Settlement Agreement is fair, reasonable, and adequate.

III. The Fairness Hearing

At the Fairness Hearing the Court will:

(1) Review and determine the merits of any objection to the settlement.

(2) Determine whether to approve the settlement as fair and reasonable, adequate and in the best interest of the settlement class.

(3) Grant a fee award to class counsel.

(4) Determine whether to enter a Final Judgment Approving Settlement.

(5) Determine such other matters as may be appropriate.

                                                  

Any person or entity that objects to the Settlement Agreement, or any of its terms, or to the judgment to be entered in the action, or to any other matter to be considered at the Fairness Hearing may appear in person or through such person or entity's attorney at the hearing and present any evidence or argument that may be proper and relevant; provided, however, that no person other than Access Now, Inc., Sheri Koors, Claire's Stores, Inc. and Claire's Boutiques, Inc., shall be heard and no papers, briefs, pleadings, or other documents submitted by any person shall be received and considered by the Court, unless no later than thirty days prior to the date of the Fairness Hearing, such person files with the Court and serves upon all counsel listed below (a) a written notice of intention to appear; (b) a written statement of such person's objection to any matters before the Court; and (c) the grounds therefor or the reasons for such person's desire to appear and to be heard, together with all papers, briefs, or other documents that such person desires the Court to consider. Counsel to be served: Matthew W. Dietz, P.L., Attorney for Access Now, Inc., & Sheri Koors, Brickell Bayview Centre, Suite 1920, 80 Southwest 8th Street, Miami, Florida 33130, (305) 381-7999; (305) 381-8203 fax; and Robert S. Fine, Greenberg Traurig, P.A., Attorney for Claires, 1221 Brickell Ave., Miami, Florida 33131, (305) 579-0826, (305) 579-0717 fax.

No person shall be entitled to object to approval of the settlement, or to any of its terms, or to the judgment to be entered in the action, or otherwise to be heard, without first filing and serving written objections as described above. Any person who fails to object in the manner prescribed above shall be deemed to have waived such objection and will be forever barred from raising such objection in this action.

IF YOU DO NOT OPPOSE THIS SETTLEMENT, YOU NEED NOT APPEAR OR FILE ANYTHING IN WRITING.

IV. For More Information

This Notice is only a summary. The full settlement agreement, the amended complaint, and other documents in the case may be inspected and copied at the Clerk's Office, United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Federal Courthouse Square, 301 N. Miami Ave., Miami, Florida 33128.

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