American Girl’s Chicago retail store has become the latest
Chicago business hit with a lawsuit brought by a so-called “tester,” who has
also similarly targeted dozens of other public storefronts, this time alleging
the retailer’s popular Michigan Avenue doll store isn’t properly designed or
equipped to handle people with disabilities, as required by federal law.
On June 22, plaintiff Howard Cohan filed suit in Chicago
federal court against American Girl Retail Inc., alleging the Chicago American
Girl Place store’s restrooms fall short of the accessibility requirements of
the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to the lawsuit, Cohan, acting as a so-called
tester, visited the American Girl Place store at Chicago’s Water Tower Place in
August 2015. According to the complaint, Cohan is a man with “numerous
disabilities, including spinal stenosis, which causes a restriction to his
spinal canal, resulting in a neurological deficit.”
The lawsuit alleged Cohan, on his visit, discovered several
alleged violations of the ADA accessibility requirements in the Chicago
American Girl store’s men’s restroom and family restroom. Specifically, the
complaint said Cohan discovered restroom doors that were too difficult to open;
urinals and toilets that were too tall; a lack of grab bars in stalls; and
improperly positioned toilet paper dispensers, among others.
The complaint acknowledged Cohan visited the store
specifically “for the purpose of discovering, encountering and engaging discrimination
against the disabled in public accommodations” at the store.
Cohan is represented in the action by attorney Jason Weiss,
of Weiss Law Group, of Coral Springs, Fla.
In the lawsuit, Cohan is described as a resident of Palm
Beach County, Fla.
However, Cohan has served as such a tester in numerous other
lawsuits filed in Chicago federal court against a number of other businesses.
In 2015, for instance, Cohan, working primarily with the Chicago law firm of
Jacobson and Tchernev, filed 21 such ADA accessibility actions against local
businesses in Chicago federal court. Through the first three months of this
year, federal court records had indicated Cohan had filed 10 more such actions
against local businesses.
Cohan’s most recent complaint against American Girl asked a
federal judge to order American Girl to correct the alleged shortcomings, and
award attorney fees and “other expenses of suit” to Cohan’s lawyer.
The lawsuit also noted the U.S. Department of Justice could
also take legal action against the doll seller, which could result in civil
penalties of “up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for each subsequent
The American Girl Place at 835 N. Michigan Avenue ranks
among Chicago’s most popular retail destinations, and is itself a tourist
destination. Several hotels, for instance, advertise packages in partnership with
the store targeted at those coming to Chicago to shop at and experience the
store and its associated offerings.