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Judge advances deaf man’s ADA action against Six Flags

A deaf man claims Six Flags refused to provide a sign language interpreter for him and his wife, despite a stated policy of doing so.

(CN) — A federal judge on Friday rejected theme park giant Six Flags' bid to toss an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit brought by a deaf man who says the park refused to provide him with a sign language interpreter.

According to the complaint filed in December 2021, Melvin Patterson is a "profoundly deaf" man living in Patterson, California. He and his deaf wife, Rhona Rodriguez, and their two children are all "Gold Plus" members of Six Flags, a privilege for which they paid $84.69 per month for a year, starting in June 2021. According to the suit, Six Flags has a policy of providing deaf visitors American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters if they call and request such a service seven days before a visit.

But when Patterson called the number prior to his family's visit to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, he was told that no ASL interpreter would be provided — he would have to bring his own. He was also told that the company "would not issue any refunds or cancel his membership despite the refusal to accommodate him."

Patterson sued Six Flags, claiming he had been "intentionally discriminated against" and that the theme park operators had "acted with deliberate indifference to his federally-protected rights."

"As a result of defendants’ failure to provide ASL interpreters to plaintiff, he received services that were objectively substandard and that were inferior to those provided to customers who are hearing," Patterson says in his complaint, filed in the Eastern District of California.

In its motion to dismiss, Six Flags said Patterson had initially called the wrong office, and then did not make requests for an interpreter seven days before his visit.

Six Flags asked U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller to dismiss the lawsuit, in part because Patterson had not made "a good faith attempt to make a timely future request for accommodation." But Mueller disagreed, noting in her 12-page ruling that Six Flags had "denied Patterson’s timely request for ASL interpreters for six of his future planned visits despite Patterson’s calling the number or office identified in the policy."

Other objections, largely on procedural grounds, were likewise rejected by the judge.

"We are pleased with the judge’s well reasoned decision," Patterson's lawyer Andrew Rozynski said in an email. A spokesperson for Six Flags had not responded to an emailed request for comment by press time.

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