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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Virginia Waffle Houses May Violate ADA

(CN) - A Vietnam veteran with a Purple Heart may sue several Waffle Houses in Virginia for being inaccessible to wheelchairs, a federal judge ruled.

Kenneth Flaum is a disabled veteran and three-time Purple Heart recipient who often uses a wheelchair due to his war-related injuries.

Flaum has sued at least four other businesses for not being accessible to wheelchairs, including the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation - a historic district representing the colonial capital of Virginia, a bowling alley, a movie theater, and a shopping center.

His complaint against 45 Waffle House outlets does not state which accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act the restaurants fail to meet.

But Flaum claims he has personally visited four Waffle Houses in Virginia and found them not accessible by wheelchair. He has not visited the other 41 locations, but alleges that Waffle House uses a common design to construct all its properties.

U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan Jr., in Newport News, last week upheld Flaum's claims regarding the locations he has personally visited, noting that Flaum says he will return to these Waffle Houses when they are made accessible, "not only to avail himself of the goods and services offered to the public at these properties, but also to assure himself that these properties are in compliance with the ADA so that he and other similarly situated will have full and equal enjoyment of the properties without fear of discrimination."

The court cited Flaum's victory in his case against Colonial Williamsburg as precedent for establishing his standing to sue Waffle House.

But Morgan found that "a more definite statement is needed regarding standing for the forty-one Waffle Houses Flaum has not visited."

Flaum cannot sue these restaurants based on generic violations, without personal knowledge of what barriers to wheelchair-bound customers exist at each restaurant, the 10-page opinion states.

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