Plaintiff Brenda Pickern is a visually impaired and mobility-impaired woman who depends on an electric wheelchair for transportation. Pier 1 Imports Inc. operates its store leased from the Siegmund Weinstock Family Trust.

The store is separated from the street by a long strip of land containing a public sidewalk and a 10-foot-wide grassy berm. There is no access ramp connecting the sidewalk to the store’s parking lot. Both the public sidewalk and the grassy strip are owned and maintained by the city.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Pickern cannot traverse the grassy strip in her wheelchair to reach the store. Instead, she must proceed down the sidewalk to one of two main mall entrances or to one of several access ramps connecting the sidewalk to the mall parking lot.

The plaintiff sued Pier 1 Imports for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She alleged the store and its landlord failed to remove architectural barriers, including building a ramp from the store over the grassy area to the parking area.

The attorney for the store and the landlord replied there is no obligation to build an access ramp over the city-owned grassy area to make the store more easily accessible from the parking lot. Pickern argued ADA requires such access in existing facilities where such removal is readily achievable.

The defendant store and landlord emphasized the city controls the grassy area and ADA prohibits access discrimination only by people who own, lease or operate a place of public accommodation.

If you were the judge would you require Pier 1 and its landlord to build a handicap-access ramp over the city-owned grassy area to provide better access?

The judge said no!

Title III of the ADA requires property owners and tenants of commercial places of public accommodation to remove architectural barriers where such removal is readily achievable, the judge began. However, in this situation the landlord and tenant do not manage the strip of grass, mow it or maintain it in any manner, he continued.

There is no requirement in ADA that private entities seek permission to alter public property to accommodate the handicapped, the judge explained. Therefore, Pier 1 and its landlord have no obligation under ADA to provide an access ramp over the city-owned grassy area for Pickern to more easily reach the store, the judge ruled.

Based on the U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Pickern v. Pier 1 Imports (U.S.) Inc., 457 Fed.3d 963.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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