Supermarkets are facing claims for compensation from disabled shoppers across the country because they have failed to protect their accessible parking bays from abuse.
A string of county court claims are being dealt with by a new legal firm led by disabled lawyer Carl Linden.
Linden, who set up Disability Claim Management (DCM) with support from the Prince’s Trust, said his firm had already secured out-of-court settlements for two disabled clients, with another case against a south London branch of Tesco due in county court this autumn.
DCM is also dealing with 14 other claims against supermarkets across England and Wales that Linden says have failed to keep their accessible bays free from abuse by drivers without blue parking badges.
Some of these are group claims in which several disabled drivers are claiming discrimination against a single store.
Linden said he was “surprised” that supermarkets had not been challenged in court in this way before.
Part of the reason could be DCM’s low fees. The company specializes in Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) small claims cases, and charges an initial fee of just £50, plus ten per cent of any compensation.
Many of DCM’s clients couldn’t find another legal firm to take on their case.
Linden said his company was designed to ensure access to the civil justice system for disabled people.
He said the parking problem was “a growing issue” and the court cases should be “helpful” in addressing the problem.
He said: “If you start hitting people in their pockets, they start noticing claims.”
Even those supermarkets that are now fining bay abusers, such as Asda and Sainsbury’s, must still police their bays properly, said Linden.
Helen Smith, director of policy and campaigns for the disabled motorists’ charity Mobilise, said the court cases were “good news” and could help in the battle to eliminate bay abuse.
She added: “We are now getting queries from other organisations asking if this means that they could now be sued.”
No-one from Tesco was available to comment.
8 September 2009