Kohler v. Flava Enterprises, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 03-06-2015
  • Case #: 11-56814; 12-55518
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Motz for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Gould
  • Full Text Opinion

Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act restricts dressing room benches to not be longer than forty-eight inches, a store can still comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act as an "equivalent facilitation” where a disabled individual could make a parallel transfer, while also being grandfathered in under previous standards.

Chris Kohler, is disabled and uses a wheelchair. Kohler visited Flava Enterprises, Inc.’s (“Flava”) clothing store “House of Flava” to shop. While he was in the dressing room, he encountered a barrier. The dressing room bench was longer than forty-eight inches and ran the entire length of the dressing room wall. Due to this arrangement, Kohler was unable to make a diagonal transfer onto the bench from his wheelchair. Kohler filed suit against the Flava, alleging a violation of Title III of the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”). The district court granted Flava’s motion for summary judgment and Kohler appealed. Following the motion for summary judgment, Flava filed a motion for attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses from Kohler. In rendering its decision, the Ninth Circuit first turned to the guidelines the federal government promulgated with regard to structural requirements required by the ADA. It is required that dressing room benches be forty-eight inches long. Kohler conceded he could have performed the transfer in the dressing room, but insists the store did not argue that the bench was an “equivalent facilitation.” Kohler further alleged that the bench does not comport with the 1991 ADA standards, but failed to cite any authority stating the equivalent facilitation is non-compliant with the statute. Therefore, the panel held that under the 1991 ADA Accessibility Guidelines, a longer bench, which allows a parallel transfer, is an equivalent function for facilities that have not been altered since March 15, 2012. AFFIRMED.

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