Claims Over Culver City Car Show Spill Revived
(CN) - An elderly man with dementia may have a case against Culver City, Calif., after he tripped near a curb ramp that was blocked by a car show vendor's display, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.
William Cohen had been visiting Culver City from Florida in May 2011 to attend his grandson's wedding.
The elderly man, who had been diagnosed four years earlier with moderate dementia, suffered from declining cognitive function and poor balance. He used a cane to get around on his trip while staying at the Culver Hotel in downtown Culver City.
Culver City's annual car show, held in the public streets and sidewalks of its downtown area, coincided with the May 7 wedding.
Cohen had attended the show and was on his way back to the hotel when he saw that the disabled access curb ramp in front of it was completely blocked by the display of a vendor called Drivelines.
Complete with a golf cart, several tables and a large canopy, the display straddled the pedestrian crosswalk and sidewalk between the car show and the main entrance to the Culver Hotel.
There were other curb ramps 20 yards and 90 yards away in either direction, but Cohen tried to walk around and step up onto the curb. He slipped and fell face first onto the sidewalk, suffering cuts and bruises.
Cohen said he was not aware of the other ramps and sued the city as well as the Exchange Club of Culver City, which also sponsored the show.
A federal judge granted the defendants summary judgment on all claims, which included violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and three California statutes.
Looking only at the ADA claims and the alleged violations of California's Disabled Persons Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act, the 9th Circuit ruled 2-1 on Friday that Cohen may have a case against the city.
"We take no position on whether the city did in fact deny Cohen access to a public service or discriminate against him by reason of disability under 42 U.S.C. § 12132," Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote for the majority. "As the District Court held, a genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether Cohen is disabled at all. Various other disputed issues may also be resolved at trial. We simply hold that the city is not entitled to summary judgment because, drawing all reasonable inferences in Cohen's favor, it may have violated the ADA and, consequently, the DPA and the Unruh Act."
In an unpublished ruling also filed Friday, the panel revived Cohen's DPA claim against the Exchange Club.
Judge Johnnie Rawlinson wrote in dissent to the main decision that "nothing in the ADA, the governing regulations or case precedent requires access at a particular location in relation to the plaintiff's destination."
"Instead, the ADA focuses on ready access," Rawlinson wrote. "Ready access within twenty yards fulfilled the city's obligation under the ADA."
Rawlinson reiterated this finding in a dissent to the unpublished ruling as well.