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Author Topic: Businesses Complain of Nuisance Suits
snopes
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The bathrooms in the country club were opulent, with marble floors and antique furniture. But months after purchasing the club, the owners gutted them.

The problem: The walls at the Carolina Club were about an inch too narrow under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Robert Cohen and his attorney sued the place in 2003, saying he felt discriminated against, even though he was not a club member and had no interest in joining. He sued the same business in 1998 when it was under different ownership. Cohen has also filed ADA lawsuits against Publix supermarkets, McDonald's, Comfort Suites and others - more than 300 federal lawsuits in Florida over the past several years.

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me, no really
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I am in two minds about this. I think that laws/building codes that mandate accessibility for disabled people are a good idea. On the other hand, the article makes a good point that at the moment the only redress for violations is to sue. To my mind the enforcement of the laws should be up to the Government. If a person believes a building doesn't meet the standard, there should be a way for the Government to investigate, notify of any areas that do not meet the requirements, with a time frame for compliance. If after the allowed time the building still doesn't meet standards then it should be up to the Government to enforce compliance. Parhaps using fines, closure of the building, suing in court etc. I am thinking a bit like health code violations in restaurants.

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
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quote:
Originally posted by me, no really:
If a person believes a building doesn't meet the standard, there should be a way for the Government to investigate, notify of any areas that do not meet the requirements, with a time frame for compliance.

The trouble is, experience has shown that doesn't work. Giving the people what is called a private right of action is much more effective and cheaper for the taxpayers.

There are people out there who are over zealous. Then again, putting in a fancy new bathroom without bothering to meet the codes (which have been in existence a good 20 years now) is just plain stupid, and IMO, you deserve to lose money and have to replace it.

Seaboe

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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by SeaboeMuffinchucker:
There are people out there who are over zealous. Then again, putting in a fancy new bathroom without bothering to meet the codes (which have been in existence a good 20 years now) is just plain stupid, and IMO, you deserve to lose money and have to replace it.

Agreed.

Also, Mr. Cohen was not a member and didn't wish to become one, but that doesn't mean the club will never have a disabled member. Unless, of course, they plan on excluding the disabled from membership.

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Victoria J
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quote:
Originally posted by SeaboeMuffinchucker:
There are people out there who are over zealous. Then again, putting in a fancy new bathroom without bothering to meet the codes (which have been in existence a good 20 years now) is just plain stupid, and IMO, you deserve to lose money and have to replace it.

The article says nothing about the bathroom being new, merely "opulent", and the person currently being sued bought the property with the bathroom already installed.

On a less nitpicking note, I don't see how anyone can draw the conclusion that they are nuisance suits just because of the high number of cases from some individuals. I would have thought there were 2 possible explanations for this, either they are politically motivated and are a result of the people involved campaigning for better disabled access OR they are attempts to profit from the cases. If the claims are politically motivated that seems quite acceptable, the claimants would be using a legitimate legal means to enforce better access, and this should not be compared to nuisance suits.

A period in which compliance would automatically end the law suit might be a good idea. But is there any mechanism for deciding on compliance without going to court anyway ?

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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by Victoria J:
quote:
Originally posted by SeaboeMuffinchucker:
There are people out there who are over zealous. Then again, putting in a fancy new bathroom without bothering to meet the codes (which have been in existence a good 20 years now) is just plain stupid, and IMO, you deserve to lose money and have to replace it.

The article says nothing about the bathroom being new, merely "opulent", and the person currently being sued bought the property with the bathroom already installed.
I stand corrected. It wasn't construction incompetence; it was a failure of due diligence.

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pinqy
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Country Clubs are not generally considered places of public accomodation and are therefore not subject to the ADA.

pinqy

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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
Country Clubs are not generally considered places of public accomodation and are therefore not subject to the ADA.

pinqy

Then shouldn't the lawsuit have been dismissed?

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hoitoider
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quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
Country Clubs are not generally considered places of public accomodation and are therefore not subject to the ADA.

pinqy

That's complete b.s. All buildings in Assembly (which would be this one), Business, Education & Mercantile use groups are required to meet ADA. Some areas of Factory & Storage use group buildings (such as office areas) are required to meet ADA also.

It's also obvious what happened - plans are dimensioned stud-stud; you have to add an inch to account for the 1/2" gypsum board (or whatever) wall finish on each side to get a clear dimension.

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pinqy
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It depends. On an individual basis, country clubs can be considered public accommodation depending on whether or not they solicit members, what their requirements for membership are, member control of the management, and a few other things. For example a club may call itself private, but if it advertises to the general public, has no real membership requirements, and allows "guests" not accompanied by a member, then for Civil Rights law purposes they are public accomodation. So whether or not the club is a public accomodation would be part of the decision in the suit.

pinqy

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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by hoitoider:
It's also obvious what happened - plans are dimensioned stud-stud; you have to add an inch to account for the 1/2" gypsum board (or whatever) wall finish on each side to get a clear dimension.

Or the bathrooms were built before the ADA.

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hoitoider
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quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
It depends.

No it doesn't. Being a public or private membership club has nothing to do with it. Same thing w/ a Sam's Club or some type of membership store. You don't know what you're talking about.

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LittleDuck
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The ADA was passed in 1990.
quote:
"Public accommodations" include most places of lodging (such as inns and hotels), recreation, transportation, education, and dining, along with stores, care providers, and places of public displays, among other things. The standard is one of "readily achievable," defined as easily and inexpensively done. There are exceptions to this title; many private clubs, religious organizations, and historical landmarks may not be bound by Title III.
Before I get flamed for being anti disabled, my mom was disabled for many many years before she passed away. I can recall my parents and I going to Boston to see a show at the former Fleet Center (now the TD BankNorth Garden, IIRC) and having a bitch of a time using the subway stations. One we needed to use, the escalators were out of order and they had no elevators. This was maybe five years or so after the ADA passed. My father fought the local WalMart after they built their store because they had the proper amount of handicapped spaces but they were all around the side of the building, in a difficult to get to/from spot for an able bodied person. Eventually they moved the spaces into the front. He never sued, though, never threatened to. He got ahold of the proper authorities and WalMArt complied. The train station took longer and I'm still not sure they're in compliance, but that's beside the point.

As quoted, some places are exempted under the ADA. Does that make it right? Nope. Do I think that lawsuits are the answer? Not in every case. In fact, it isn't so much this particular guy has filed many suits, it's the fact that he filed one for a club he does not intend to belong to. To me, that raises a red flag. And it paints a bad face on many other people who just want to be able to go where able bodied people do. Or to help their parents not be humiliated as their family tries to carry them down a narrow stone staircase.

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pinqy
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quote:
Originally posted by hoitoider:
quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
It depends.

No it doesn't. Being a public or private membership club has nothing to do with it. Same thing w/ a Sam's Club or some type of membership store. You don't know what you're talking about.
I know exactly what I'm talking about. Sam's Club and other membership stores are considered public accomodation despite their requirement for "membership." A truly private club, that has strict membership requirements, is not a public accomodation and is not subject to ADA or Civil Rights laws.

If I privately owned a lot of land, and decided to build a golf course and restricted membership to friends, and friends of friends that were vouched for, and did not advertise or in any way solicit membership, then the club would be truly private and I would not have to follow any anti-discrimination laws.

There are a few other wrinkles, but that's basically it. Not all "clubs" are truly private and those that are not are subject to the ADA. Some country clubs are truly private. Some are not.

If you can show me the law which supports your point, I'll concede. But since you don't have any law to back you up, I'll just sit back and feel smug.

pinqy

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hoitoider
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quote:
Originally posted by pinqy:
If I privately owned a lot of land, and decided to build a golf course and restricted membership to friends, and friends of friends that were vouched for, and did not advertise or in any way solicit membership, then the club would be truly private and I would not have to follow any anti-discrimination laws.

As a practicing architect I can tell you there's no way you would receive an occupancy permit from the local building official for a private club or if you wanted to build a church w/out compliance. The building officials go by the ADAAG, which goes by use group (& even lists the assisted hearing devices required for churches - aren't they exempt?). If you have enough money & time to sue, fine. But you'd have a major uphill, expensive battle & unless you're a politically connected good ol' boy you won't win.

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pinqy
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quote:
[b]As a practicing architect I can tell you there's no way you would receive an occupancy permit from the local building official for a private club or if you wanted to build a church w/out compliance.
But that's a different matter. That has nothing to do with the ADA directly. The ADA does NOT require truly private clubs to comply...that state or local laws require such compliance for occupancy or building permits is a completely different matter.

And even though it would have to comply for a permit, a truly private club could legally exclude from membership handicapped individuals(though there are some exceptions to that, as well, as seen by successful lawsuits against private clubs forcing them to accept members of races, religions, sexes, they previously banned).

pinqy

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Dara bhur gCara
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However, by its own admission this country club isn't a truly private club.

The very first sentence of the very first page of the club's website:

quote:
The Carolina Club is a prestigious semi-private golf & social club that's open to the public to enjoy.


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pinqy
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That's why I said "it depends." In this case, then, The Carolina Club would be considered a public accomodation and subject to Civil Rights legislation, including the ADA.

pinqy

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hoitoider
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quote:
Originally posted by Dara bhur gCara:
However, by its own admission this country club isn't a truly private club.

That's PC speak for 'We don't discriminate against blacks & Jews', which many of these clubs used to do. Sometimes they'll express it as 'unrestricted membership.' On their web site they still say "Application for membership involves the traditional introduction and screening processes typical of exclusive premium daily fee clubs."

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