After he completed his banking transaction at the Bank of America, Patrick Madden decided to go to the adjacent Del Taco restaurant to purchase food. As he approached the south store entrance, Madden was confronted by a concrete trash can in the middle of the 42-inch-wide sidewalk.

Although he is confined to a wheelchair, Madden attempted to navigate around the trash container. But he was unable to do so and was injured when his wheelchair tipped over.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Madden sued Del Taco, alleging his injuries were caused by the restaurant’s violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for failure to maintain access for handicapped patrons. Del Taco replied that the south entrance may have been temporarily blocked by the concrete trash container, but Madden could have used the north entrance, which was ADA compliant.

However, Madden responded he was not aware of the other store entrance because (a) the south entrance was the only one visible as he came from the nearby bank and (b) this was his first visit to the Del Taco so he was not familiar with the other access.

Del Taco’s attorney noted the store was built in 1973 and had not been remodeled since then so the ADA does not require more than one access for handicapped patrons. But Madden argued that placing the concrete trash can in the middle of the narrow south sidewalk discriminated against him and others who use wheelchairs.

If you were the judge would you rule Del Taco’s placing a concrete trash can blocking a sidewalk violated the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The judge said yes!

“Del Taco’s view of its duty is outmoded,” the judge began. “The ADA provides ‘No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation,” he continued.

The real question, the judge explained, is whether an obstacle like the Del Taco concrete trash container, blocking an accessible route of travel to an entrance, presents a breach of this duty under the ADA.

“Del Taco’s concrete trash container is a prima facie violation of the ADA … including a duty to keep such entrance access clear of obstacles,” the judge emphasized. Therefore, placing the container on the ramp and blocking Madden’s access to the store is a violation of the ADA, the judge ruled.

Based on the 2007 California Court of Appeal decision in Madden v. Del Taco Inc., 58 Cal.Rptr.3d 313.

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

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