Plaintiff's Burden Raised in ADA Case Against Liquor Store

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 06, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A little paint goes a long way in remodeling and also in ADA compliance.

According to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, a liquor store did enough to comply with federal disability requirements by painting a van-accessible parking spot and putting up a sign. In fact, it was moot by the time the case got to trial because the owner had already fixed the parking problem.

But there was still a problem with the service counter, which was too high for the wheelchair-bound plaintiff. The burden, however, was on him in Wright v. RL Liquor.

R2, D2 Case

Jabari N. Wright is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. When he went to RL Liquor, he had trouble with parking and getting around the store.

He sued the company, operating under R2, D2, Inc., for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He said the parking lot had no van-accessible spots, the entry threshold was improperly graded and the counter top was too high.

A judge dismissed the case as moot because the business corrected the violations, except for the counter issue. The judge said the plaintiff failed to show a "readily achievable barrier removal method."

Wright appealed, but the Eighth Circuit agreed with R2, D2. The plaintiff had the burden of showing the counter could be removed "without much difficulty or expense."

How High?

Courts consider the financial resources of the company, the number of employees, and other factors when determining whether removal is readily achievable. The ADA does not say which party has the initial burden of showing removal is appropriate under its standards.

In Colorado Cross Disability Coal v. Hermanson Family Ltd., the Tenth Circuit said the plaintiff has the initial burden. The Eighth Circuit decided to follow that decision.

In Wright's case, the appeals court said plaintiff did not offer a plausible proposal for removing the counter. It wasn't about whether the counter was too high, but rather about how high was the plaintiff's burden.

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