Robin Fortyune is a C-5 quadriplegic who requires both a wheelchair and an aide to attend movie theaters. Robin and his wife, Felicia, attempted to view a first-run film at the American Multi-Cinema (AMC) Theater.
The 4:45 p.m. screening was well attended. AMC “over-sold” tickets for that show. Fortyune and his wife arrived about 20 minutes before showtime. The auditorium has four wheelchair spaces, each adjoined by a companion seat.
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A sign on these seats says “NOTICE: This seat is designated as COMPANION SEATING for our disabled guests, per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. It may be necessary to ask non-disabled patrons to move.”
When Mrs. Fortyune found all four companion seats occupied for the sold-out showing, she asked theater manager, Jason Kulbel, for help. But he was unable to get any non-companion customer to move. The manager said he could not require such customers to move.
After refusing Kulbel’s offer to view another film, but accepting two free passes for future showings, the Fortyunes left the theater. Despite this unfavorable experience, the Fortyunes continue to view three or four films a week at the theater. But now they arrive 45 minutes early to assure handicap seating.
Robin Fortyune filed this lawsuit against AMC for discrimination against disabled persons in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. After two failed mediations, the case went to trial.
Fortyune sought an injunction requiring AMC to modify its policies for companion seating to ensure a companion of a wheelchair-bound patron shall receive such seating up to 10 minutes before show time.
If you were the judge would you issue an injunction requiring AMC to assure companion seating of a wheelchair patron up to 10 minutes before show time?
The judge said yes!
The action of AMC’s theater manager by failing to provide companion seating for Robin Fortyune’s wife, Felicia, was clearly discrimination against persons with disabilities, the judge began.
AMC could easily have modified its policy by allowing only companions of disabled persons to sit in the designated companion seats, he continued.
This would be a “reasonable modification” to comply with ADA guidelines, the judge explained.
“AMC agrees that such events are exceedingly uncommon, so enforcement of the ordered policy will incur neither excessive financial costs nor an extensive administrative burden,” the judge emphasized.
A mandatory injunction shall be issued requiring AMC theaters to provide seating for companions of wheelchair-bound patrons up to 10 minutes before scheduled show times, the judge ruled.
Based on the 2004 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Fortyune v. American Multi-Cinema Inc., 364 Fed.3d 1075.
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