Disability Law

9th Circuit orders lower court to review decision over accessibility at baseball stadium

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A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled in favor of plaintiffs who alleged that spectators using wheelchairs at T-Mobile Park, the home of the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball team, had inadequate sightlines under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a 27-page opinion, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco held that the lower court incorrectly applied the Department of Justice’s stadium-related guidelines by analyzing only the requirement that a person using a wheelchair be able to see the game between the heads and over the shoulders of the people standing in the row immediately in front of them.

“The panel held that the district court erred by failing to analyze the additional requirement that a person using a wheelchair must be able to see the playing surface over the heads of the persons standing two rows in front,” said Judge Danielle Forrest, who was writing for the majority.

Judge Patrick Bumatay wrote a concurring opinion.

Courthouse News Service reported on the decision.

A group of baseball fans who all use wheelchairs for mobility brought the federal lawsuit against the owners and operators of T-Mobile Park, alleging that the stadium failed to comply with multiple requirements of the ADA. This included their claim that the sightlines of spectators using wheelchairs were almost always more obstructed than those of spectators who were not using wheelchairs.

During a bench trial in December 2019, the district court rejected the plaintiffs’ sightlines claim and held that T-Mobile Park was in compliance with the ADA, according to Courthouse News Service.

The 9th Circuit said Wednesday because it was not satisfied that the district court fully analyzed the stadium-related guidelines, it would vacate its decision and remand for further proceedings.

“We express no opinion at this point as to the ultimate issue—whether the stadium’s sightlines for spectators using wheelchairs are sufficient to satisfy the ADA,” the panel wrote. “To properly consider that question, a full analysis of the [DOJ’s] Accessible Stadiums requirements is needed.”

“Everyone deserves an accessible and inclusive experience and baseball fans with disabilities simply wish to have a comparable view of the game when they go out to enjoy America’s pastime,” Conrad Reynoldson, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told Courthouse News Service. “We are hopeful that this decision will lead to positive changes going forward.”

The 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the stadium owners on some of the plaintiffs’ other claims.

In a separate and unpublished opinion, the appeals panel held that wheelchair-accessible seating was sufficiently dispersed throughout T-Mobile Park, and that ticket pricing complied with the ADA.

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