TITLE III ADA CLAIMS
HOW TO PROVE A TITLE III ADA CLAIM
Title III of the ADA provides that “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.” (42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)). A Plaintiff in a Title III ADA claim must prove 3 elements in order to prevail: (1) that Plaintiff is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) that the Defendant’s owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation; and (3) that Plaintiff was denied public accommodation by the Defendant due to his or her disability. (Arizona ex re. Goddard v. Harkins Amusement Enters, Inc., 603 F.3d 666, 670 (9th Cir.2012); see also Dunlap v. Ass’n of Bay Area Gov’ts, 996 F.Supp. 962, 965 (N.D. Cal. 1998); see also, Shultz v. Hemet Youth Pony League, 943 F.Supp. 1222, 1225 (C.D. Cal. 1996). The third element – whether Plaintiff was denied access on the basis of disability – is met if there was a violation of applicable accessibility standards. (Chapman v. Pier I Imports (U.S.), Inc., 631 F.3d 939, 945 (9th Cir.2011); Donald v. Cafe Royale, 218 Cal.App.3d 168, 183).
As to the first element, the ADA defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such an individual.” (42 U.S.C. § 12101(2)). The Justice Department defines an “impairment” as a condition affecting one or more of the bodies’ systems, including the musculoskeletal and neurological systems, and defines “major life activities” to include “functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.” (28 C.F.R. 36.104).
As to the second element, the ADA identifies 12 categories of facilities that are considered places of public accommodation for purposes of a Title III action. (42 U.S.C. § 12181). Generally every public place that is open to the general public is included, such as “a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment.” (42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(E).
As to the third element, “Existing facilities”- places of public accommodation built prior to January 26, 1993- are required to remove architectural barriers that deny access to persons with disabilities, “where such removal is readily achievable.” (42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv)). Whether an architectural element at a facility denies full and equal access to persons with disabilities is determined based on the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (“ADAAG”). (Chapman v. Pier I Imports (U.S.), Inc., 631 F.3d 939, 945 (9th Cir.2011). Common examples of “readily achievable” barrier removal required by the ADA include: installing handicapped parking spaces; installing curb cuts in sidewalks; lowering dispensers in restrooms; installing grab bars in toilet stalls; installing ramps; rearranging tables, chairs, vending machines, display racks, and other furniture; repositioning telephones; adding raised markings on elevator control buttons; installing flashing alarm lights; widening doors; and installing accessible door hardware.
The California ADA attorneys at Custodio & Dubey, LLP have proven the elements of Title III ADA claims on behalf of their clients in hundreds of cases. They are aggressive and innovative litigators dedicated to getting the best result for their clients. Call them toll free at (213) 785-2909 for a free consultation of your case, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. You can also fill out our online consultation form and an attorney will contact you as soon as possible.
ENFORCEMENT OF TITLE III OF THE ADA
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) provides that “no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation”. (42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)). There are two primary ways to enforce Title III of the ADA. First, private suits may be brought by individuals who are subjected to discrimination or who have reasonable grounds for believing that they are about to be subjected to discrimination. In a private action, the relief that may be granted is preventive and includes a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order or “other order,” including an order to alter the facilities to make such facilities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities to the extent required by the ADA. In such private suits, although the Justice Department is authorized to intervene, it rarely does so due to the sheer volume of such lawsuits.
Second, ADA Title III authorizes suits by the Justice Department whenever it has reasonable cause—ranging from anonymous complaints to verifiable facts—to believe that there is a pattern or practice of discrimination that raises an issue of general public importance. Obviously the Justice Department is limited by the number of attorneys and other resources at its disposal when deciding what Title III claims to pursue.
In a suit brought by the Justice Department, the court may grant equitable relief, including temporary, preliminary or permanent injunctive relief requiring that a facility be made readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. In addition, in Justice Department-initiated suits, the court may award monetary damages to aggrieved persons and assess a civil penalty payable to the U.S. Treasury—”to vindicate the public interest”—in an amount not exceeding $50,000 for a first violation or $100,000 for any subsequent violation.
In addition, the prevailing party (other than the United States) in any action or administrative proceeding under ADA Title III, a successful Plaintiff may recover reasonable attorney fees and litigation expenses in addition to any injunctive relief granted.
The Constitutionality of Title III ADA enforcement is not an issue as a U.S. District Court in California dismissed a constitutional challenge to ADA Title III, holding that Congress was empowered to enact ADA Title III pursuant to the Commerce Clause and that the terms of ADA Title III were neither unconstitutionally vague nor an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority by Congress to the Executive Branch.
The Title III attorneys at Custodio & Dubey, LLP have handled hundreds of disability access cases. They are aggressive and innovative litigators dedicated to getting the best result for their clients. If you are disabled and have encountered a non-accessible public accommodation, please call them toll free at (213) 785-2909 for a free consultation of your case, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. You can also fill out our online consultation form and an attorney will contact you as soon as possible.