Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Marina Subject to Americans With Disabilities Act, Court Rules
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
This district’s Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that a Marina Del Rey marina is subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Concluding that the Holiday Panay Marina was a place of public accommodation, Div. Eight reversed a ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia B. Collins, since retired, against a quadriplegic man who filed suit over wheelchair access to the slip where he moored his boat.
Don Nicholls sued the marina in 2006, alleging that its inaccessibility to his wheelchair violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The act prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating against any individual “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.”
The marina moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was not a place of public accommodation, and Collins agreed, reasoning that the marina and its boat slips were similar to an apartment building or condominium complex, to which the act does not apply.
But on appeal, Justice Laurence D. Rubin wrote that identifying the marina as a “rental establishment” under the ADA furthered the act’s purpose, and said that the marina’s status as a “private” establishment was not dispositive.
Rubin opined that the marina, by leasing a slip to Nicholls, was a “rental establishment” falling within one of 12 categories enumerated in the act. He said federal regulations applying the statute, as well as the act’s purpose, made it clear that the act’s failure to mention marinas that lease boat slips to the public did not preclude marinas from being rental establishments.
“[Nicholls] does not ask [the marina] to rent him a boat customized to accommodate his confinement to a wheelchair; he wants only to rent a slip at which to moor his boat,” the justice explained. “Just as unmodified parking lots may limit a disabled person’s access to one’s land vehicle, the marina’s inaccessibility to [Nicholls’] wheelchair limits his access to his boat.”
The justice also rejected the argument that the marina, by limiting access to tenants with card keys, was private, and not subject to the act.
“[The marina] excludes members of the general public from entering the marina, and under his lease [Nicholls] presumably has exclusive use of his boat slip allowing him to refuse other boats to tie up in his spot,” he wrote.
“Nothing in the record suggests, however, that leases are not available to members of the general public on a first-come, first-served basis as they become available. And because the leases in principle are offered to the public from time-to-time, the marina remains a public accommodation.”
Rubin then concluded that the ADA’s treatment of lodging did not assist the marina.
Commenting that the act applies to transient lodging, such as hotels and motels, but not to residences of greater permanency, such as apartments and condominiums, the justice said that Collins erroneously miscast the marina as falling in the latter category absent evidence that Nicholls or any other tenants lived at the marina or regularly slept overnight on their boats.
Justice Madeleine Flier and Ventura Superior Court Judge Vincent O’Neill, sitting by assignment, joined Rubin in his opinion.
The case is Nicholls v. Holiday Panay Marina, L.P., B202356.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company