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Christman v. Tymaco

May 5, 2008

MARK J. CHRISTMAN, PLAINTIFF
v.
TYMACO, INC. AND ICE CASTLE, INC., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hay, Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

The instant claim of disability discrimination arises under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. The parties tried the case to this Court on January 9-10, 2008.*fn1 Having heard the testimony and reviewed the exhibits, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a)(1) the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Plaintiff, Mark J. Christman ("Plaintiff" or "Christman"), brought suit against Tymaco, Inc. ("Tymaco") and Ice Castle, Inc. ("Ice Castle")(collectively, the "Defendants"), pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. ("ADA"), on the grounds that the defendants discriminated against him in the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities of Ice Castle Arena, a place of public accommodation. Amended Complaint, Dkt. [21].

2. Christman is 47 years old, married and has 3 children. He suffers from facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, which is a form of muscular dystrophy that causes progressive weakening and loss of skeletal muscles. Christman requires a wheelchair for mobility. Trial Transcript ("TR") 13-15.

3. Christman is an individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA. See Stipulation, Dkt. [31]; see also Exhibit 1.

4. Christman's 13 year-old son, Zach, plays ice hockey at Ice Castle Arena. TR 15-17.

5. Ice Castle Arena is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of the ADA since it is open to the public for such activities as ice hockey games and practices, public skating, parties and events. TR 12; 42 U.S.C. § 12182(7)(providing that private entities, such as "a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation," are considered public accommodations if their operations affect commerce).

6. Title III of the ADA addresses discrimination against individuals with disabilities "in the full and equal enjoyment" of places of public accommodation. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). The general rule, set forth in Section 12182(a), provides as follows:

No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).

7. Christman attends his son's hockey practices and games at Ice Castle Arena. TR 17-19.

8. Christman complains that the defendants have violated the ADA as follows: (a) by failing to provide wheelchair users with an accessible route from the parking lot to the Ice Castle Arena that coincides to the maximum extent feasible with the route taken by the general public and/or by failing to locate the handicapped parking spaces on the shortest route from adjacent parking to an accessible building; (b) by having doorways to the elevator lobby that do not comply with the minimum required space for a clear opening; (c)) because the elevator and the balcony area are not on an "accessible route;" and (d) because there are no wheelchair areas that are an integral part of the fixed seating. Amended Complaint, Dkt. [21]; TR 13-101.

9. Tymaco owns the real property and certain improvements at 990 Castle Shannon Boulevard, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, including a two-story commercial building. The building has two tenants, Ice Castle Arena and Club One Xpress, LLC, an exercise/health club facility. TR 184; Exhibit 10.

10. As an owner and lessor of Ice Castle Arena, Tymaco is subject to the requirements of Title III of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)("No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of a disability ... by any person who owns ... (or leases to) ...").

11. Ice Castle operates under the trade name of Ice Castle Arena and has two ice rinks in the commercial building at 990 Castle Shannon Boulevard that are used for sports, entertainment and recreation. The two rinks are known, respectively, as the Roadside Rink and the Trackside Rink. Amended Complaint, Dkt. [21], ¶¶ 9, 10, 12; Answer to Amended Complaint, Dkt. [24], ¶¶ 9, 10, 12; TR 18; Exhibits 2c, 2d.

12. As the lessee and operator of Ice Castle Arena, Ice Castle is subject to the requirements of Title III of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)("No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of a disability ... by any person who ... leases ...").

13. Title III of the ADA provides that discrimination by places of public accommodation "includes a failure to design and construct facilities for first occupancy [after January 26, 1993], that are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, except where an entity can demonstrate that it is structurally impracticable to meet the requirements of such subsection in accordance with standards set forth or incorporated by reference in regulations issued under this subchapter." 42 U.S.C § 12183(a)(1); 28 C.F.R. § 36.401(a)(1).*fn2

14. Construction on Ice Castle Arena began in 1999 and the arena opened in late 2000. TR 171-172.

15. Ice Castle Arena is "new construction" within the meaning of Title III of the ADA since it was designed and constructed "for first occupancy later than 30 months after July 26, 1990." 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(1); 28 C.F.R. § 36.401(a)(1).

16. Newly designed and constructed facilities must be "readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities." 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(1); 28 C.F.R. § 36.401(a)(1).

17. "All areas of newly designed or newly constructed buildings and facilities required to be accessible by [Standards] 4.1.2 and 4.1.3 ... shall comply with [Standards] 4.1 through 4.35 ..." Standard 4.1.1.

18. Newly designed and constructed facilities must provide, inter alia, at least one accessible route in compliance with Standard 4.3 (Accessible Route) from the accessible parking spaces to an accessible building. Standard 4.1.2.

19. The accessible route must coincide with the route for the general public, to the maximum extent feasible. Standard 4.3.2(2).

20. "Accessible route" is defined as a "continuous unobstructed path connecting all accessible elements and spaces of a building or facility. Interior accessible routes may include corridors, floors, ramps, elevators, lifts, and clear floor space at fixtures. Exterior accessible routes may include parking access aisles, curb ramps, crosswalks at vehicular ways, walks, ramps, and lifts." Standard 3.5.

21. Entrances are to be part of an accessible route between accessible parking and the facility and are also to be connected by an accessible route to all accessible spaces or elements within the building or facility. Standard 4.14.1

22. An "entrance" is defined as "[a]ny access point to a building or portion of a building or facility used for the purpose of entering ... and includes the entry door(s) ... and the hardware of the entry door(s) ... ." Standard 3.5 (Definitions).

23. At least one accessible route complying with Standard 4.3 must connect accessible facilities, elements and spaces on the same site. Standard 4.1.2(2), 4.3.2(2).

24. At least one accessible route complying with Standard 4.3 must connect accessible building entrances with all accessible spaces and elements within the building. Standard 4.1.3(1), 4.3.2(3).

25. At each accessible entrance to a building, at least one door must comply with Standard 4.13. Standard 4.1.3(7)(a).

26. Within a building, at least one door at each accessible space shall comply with Standard 4.13. Standard 4.1.3(7)(b).

27. Each door that is an element of an accessible route must comply with Standard 4.13. Standard 4.1.3(7)(c)).

28. Standard 4.13 states that doorways must provide a minimum clear opening of 32 inches with the door open 90 degrees, "measured between the face of the door and the opposite stop." Standard 4.13.5.

29. According to the Standards, the minimum clear width for single wheelchair passage must be 32 inches at a point, such as a doorway, and 36 inches continuously. Standard 4.2.1.

30. The Standards require the clear opening to account for any "panic" hardware. TR 124-125, 136-137.

31. The Standards require that handicapped parking spaces be located on the shortest accessible route from adjacent parking to an accessible entrance. In buildings with multiple entrances with adjacent parking, handicapped spaces are to be dispersed and located closest to the accessible entrances. Standard 4.6.2.

32. The Standards require that accessible elevators must be on an accessible route. Standard 4.10.1.

33. The Standards require that wheelchair areas are to be an integral part of any fixed seating plan and shall adjoin an accessible route. At least one companion fixed seat must be provided next to each wheelchair space. When seating capacity exceeds 300, wheelchair spaces must be provided in more than one location. Standard 4.33.3

Route from Parking Area to Building Entrance

34. The main entrance to Ice Castle Arena is located in the middle of the building. Directly in front of the building is a sidewalk with a curb which leads to a two-way driveway which runs between the building and the main parking area. Exhibit A; TR 19, 23.

35. The main parking area contains four handicapped parking spaces directly in front of the main entrance to the building. There are hash marks painted on the pavement between the parking spaces signaling that parking is not permitted on the painted area. Id.

36. Previously, handicapped parking spaces were located to the left of (when facing) the main entrance and immediately adjacent to the sidewalk and 2 wheelchair ramps. TR 173.

37. Defendants moved the handicapped parking spaces across the driveway to their current locations upon the request of 2 disabled patrons who wanted to be more visible to reception desk staff when accessing their vehicles after daylight hours. TR 174.

38. Ambulatory patrons enter Ice Castle Arena from the main parking area by walking from their cars across the driveway area, stepping up onto the sidewalk and walking through the main entrance of the building. TR 20.

39. There are no wheelchair curb cuts or ramps directly in front of the main entrance to the building; 2 wheelchair ramps are located to the left side (when facing the entrance) of the main entrance. Exhibit A.

40. In order to access the ice rinks, the general ambulatory public enters through the main entrance to Ice Castle Arena and does so in a relatively straight-line fashion from the parking lot. The general public does not have to zig-zag or backtrack their way as wheelchair users must do. From the restricted handicapped parking area, wheelchair users must cross the two-lane driveway on a diagonal and/or in a direction away from the main entrance only to be required to double back towards the main entrance after using the wheelchair ramp. TR 25; Exhibit A.

41. The access route from the parking lot to the building for wheelchair users does not coincide to the maximum extent feasible with the route for ambulatory patrons. TR 111.

42. The Court qualified Sylvester Damianos, a licensed architect, as an expert in design and construction of facilities accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. TR 110-111.

43. Based on the testimony of Mr. Damianos, whose testimony the Court finds to be credible and unrebutted, an accessible route that coincides to the maximum extent feasible with the route for the general public could be achieved by cutting the curb in front of the entrance to Ice Castle Arena, or elevating the asphalt driveway to the height of the curb between the handicapped parking spaces and the front door of the building, and by painting hash marks on the pavement at the curb cut/ramp to signal that parking is not permitted in that area. TR 113.

44. The testimony of Ralph P. Murovich that a curb cut or a wheelchair ramp would create a flooding problem, see TR 212-213, is not credible, particularly in light of the fact that there are 2 wheelchair ramps already in place leading to the sidewalk adjacent to the entrance to the health club and there was no evidence that those ramps posed any such problem.

Interior Routes

45. Once inside the front door, patrons are directed into the lobby that leads to the main floor area. The main lobby and floor area are separated from the two ice rinks by a wall and doors. TR 26-27; Exhibit 2a.

46. Patrons enter the rinks through a door and then travel up four steps or a ramp to the seating area. TR 28; Exhibit 2c, 2d, 3.

47. Ice Castle Arena has a balcony which overlooks both rinks. The balcony is outside the rink area and is separated from the rink area by large glass windows which enable patrons to look down on the ice and watch games or practices from a heated area of the building. TR 45-46.

48. Because the balcony is not integral to the rink, the sounds and excitement in the rink area are muted by the glass. TR 86-88.

49. Because the balcony is above the near goals, sight lines from the balcony are not as good when compared to viewing ...


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