Weekly Law Resume - September 1, 2011: Americans with Disabilities Act—Pleading Barriers—Plaintiffs Must Plead Alleged Architectural Barriers in Complaint


A.J. Oliver v. Ralphs Grocery Company, et al. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (August 17, 2011)

Under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et seq. ("ADA"), an individual with disabilities can sue a place of "public accommodation" — a business establishment — to force the removal of architectural barriers that prevent that individual's full and equal enjoyment of the premises. In this case, the Ninth Circuit addressed the question of how a plaintiff must notify the defendant establishment of the specific barriers sought to be removed.

Plaintiff A.J. Oliver, a disabled individual who requires the use of a motorized wheelchair, brought suit in federal court against Ralphs Grocery Company ("Ralphs") on December 7, 2007, alleging that its Food 4 Less grocery store in Chula Vista, California, did not comply with the ADA. Oliver's complaint stated that he had encountered barriers at the Food 4 Less store and listed 18 architectural features alleged to violate the ADA.

In his ADA claim, Oliver was able to sue only for injunctive relief, i.e., removal of the barriers, not money damages. However, the ADA also provides for the award of the costs and attorney's fees incurred in prosecuting the suit. In addition, Oliver brought related state-law claims that did permit the recovery of money damages.

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