Court rejects suit against Pier 1 Imports

June 30, 2009 12:10:25 PM PDT
A federal appeals court in San Francisco Monday rejected a wheelchair user's bid to sue a Pier 1 Imports store in Vacaville over alleged accessibility barriers that he saw but that did not prevent him from entering the store.

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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that in order to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disabled person must prove that the alleged barriers actually deterred him from visiting the store. The case was filed in federal court in Sacramento in 2004 by Byron Chapman, who has a spinal cord injury that requires him to use a motorized wheelchair when traveling in public. Chapman alleged that he encountered five physical barriers to the Vacaville store's restroom on two visits in 2004. He also sought to sue over a list of other barriers that were observed either by Chapman or by an expert he hired. A trial judge ruled that the five alleged barriers Chapman did encounter, including allegedly improperly placed seat cover and toilet paper dispensers and a blocked aisle, either did not violate the law or were temporary. But Chapman sought to continue the lawsuit to challenge additional barriers he did not personally experience, such as an allegedly narrow aisle and allegedly overly heavy doors. But a three-judge appeals panel said that under federal law, Chapman must show he suffered an "injury in fact" - of being discouraged from entering the store - in order to sue. The court said Chapman didn't meet that standard because he testified at a pretrial deposition that he hadn't been deterred from visiting the store at least twice and that he planned to visit it again.

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