Court Denies 49ers Motion to Dismiss ADA Claim

Sep 29, 2017

A federal judge from the Northern District of California has denied a motion for summary judgment filed by the Forty Niners Football Company, LLC (owner of the San Francisco 49ers) and the City of Santa Clara, which had asked the court to dismiss a claim brought by Abdul and Priscilla Nevarez, alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
By way of background, the Nevarezes, and Sebastian DeFrancesco, sued the Forty Niners; Forty Niners SC Stadium Company, LLC; Forty Niners Stadium Management Company, LLC; the City of Santa Clara; the Santa Clara Stadium Authority. They claimed that, on several occasions, they visited the stadium for events, but discovered that the stadium was not fully accessible to disabled individuals.
The alleged lack of accessibility was problematic as Abdul Nevarez’s right leg is amputated above the knee, and he suffers from significant nerve damage in his left leg and left arm. Nevarez requires the use of a wheelchair for mobility. Priscilla Nevarez is not disabled, but she accompanies her husband to activities like football games. Together, they attended four games between 2014 and 2016.
On each occasion, the Nevarezes faced alleged barriers in terms of accessing the stadium because of Abdul ‘s disability. Examples they cited included:
not being able to locate elevators at the stadium;
a suite at the stadium lacking accessible seating for Nevarez;
a [delete] difficulty for the Nevarezes to access the stadium from the stadium’s parking lots;
security checkpoints that were not large enough for Nevarez’s wheelchair;
the stadium’s box office ticket window was not accessible to Nevarez;
the Nevarezes had difficulty purchasing tickets for accessible seating in advance of events; and
the Nevarezes had difficulty obtaining sufficient companion seating to allow Nevarez to sit together with his family and friends.
In late 2016, the Nevarezes sued, naming the Forty Niners Football Company, LLC; Forty Niners SC Stadium Company LLC; the National Football League; the City of Santa Clara; the Santa Clara Stadium Authority; and Ticketmaster LLC as defendants.
Then, last spring, the plaintiffs amended the complaint and alleged violations of Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
The Forty Niners Football Company, LLC and the City of Santa Clara moved to dismiss, which led to the instant opinion.
They argued specifically that Mrs. Nevarez lacked standing to sue under the ADA. In addition, they moved to dismiss portions of the claims related to the Unruh Act because the plaintiffs “failed to timely exhaust their state administrative remedies.”
Concerning the ADA, the court considered Mrs. Nevarez’ argument that she had standing for disability discrimination under the ADA because of the concept known as “associational discrimination.” Glass v. Hillsboro Sch. Dist. 1J, 142 F. Supp. 2d 1286, 1288 (D. Ore. Apr. 12, 2001).
Specifically, she alleged that “she wishes to access and enjoy the Stadium with her husband, but that she is not able to do so because of the Stadium’s architectural barriers, which have caused her to experience ‘frustration, emotional distress,’ and ‘physical exhaustion.’ These allegations are sufficient to show that Mrs. Nevarez, specifically, has suffered a separate and distinct injury from the injury suffered by Mr. Nevarez.”
Abdul Nevarez, ET AL. v. Forty Niners Football Company, LLC, et al.; N. D. Cal.; Case No. 16-CV-07013-LHK, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121030; 8/1/17
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Adam Brett Wolf, Catherine M. Cabalo, Sarah S Colby, Peiffer Rosca Wolf Abdullah Carr & Kane, San Francisco, CA; Andrew Paul Lee, Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, Oakland, CA; Guy Burton Wallace, Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns LLP, Emeryville, CA; Jennifer Ann Uhrowczik, Schneider Wallace Cottrel Konecky Wotkyns LLP, Emeryville, CA; Linda Mary Dardarian, Goldstein Borgen Dardarian & Ho, Oakland, CA; Raymond Alexander Wendell, Goldstein Borgen Dardarian Ho, Oakland, CA. (for defendant 49ers) Maria M Lampasona, Lombardi Loper & Conant, LLP, Oakland, CA. (for defendant Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc. et al.) Gregory F. Hurley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Michael Chilleen Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, Costa Mesa, CA.


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