Ninth Circuit expands standing for ADA claims concerning facility accessibility and architectural barriers: Chapman v. Pier 1 (Jan. 7, 2011)

Ninth Circuit expands standing for ADA claims concerning facility accessibility and architectural barriers: Chapman v. Pier 1 (Jan. 7, 2011)

In the case of Chapman v. Pier 1 Imps.(U.S.), Inc., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 453 (9th Cir. Cal. Jan. 7, 2011) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers / unenhanced version available from lexisONE Free Case Law], Byron Chapman, who used a wheelchair,  sued Pier 1 Imports , alleging that some of the store's architectural features denied him full and equal enjoyment of the premises in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit concluded that Chapman lacked Article III standing as to barriers he had not personally encountered because they did not deter him from returning to the store. However, the Ninth Circuit vacated the panel's decision and, instead, held that:

We now clarify that when an ADA plaintiff has suffered an injury-in-fact by encountering a barrier that deprives him of full  and equal enjoyment of the facility due to his particular disability, he has standing to sue for injunctive relief as to that barrier and other barriers related to his disability, even if he is not deterred from returning to the public accommodation at issue. First, we hold that an ADA plaintiff can establish standing to sue for injunctive relief either by demonstrating deterrence, or by demonstrating injury-in-fact coupled with an intent to return to a noncompliant facility. Second, we hold that an ADA plaintiff who establishes standing as to encountered barriers may also sue for injunctive relief as to unencountered barriers related to his disability.

(emphasis added)

However, in the concurrence, Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith objected to the majority's expansion of standing. In the context of encountered and unencountered barriers, Judge Smith said:

Requiring that an ADA plaintiff plead and prove that a barrier affects him by making access or enjoyment of a facility more difficult for him than for a non-disabled person satisfies Article III's requirement that an injury affect a "plaintiff in a personal and individual way." However, I must disagree with the majority's statement that "[w]here the [ADAAG defined] barrier is related to the particular plaintiff's disability, . . . an encounter with the barrier necessarily injures the plaintiff by depriving him of full and equal enjoyment of the facility." In this statement, the majority confuses a cognizable interest with an actual injury to that interest.

. . . .

[W]hen a plaintiff is deterred from entering a facility because of non-ADA compliant barriers, all the barriers existing at the facility (known and unknown) can be construed as one injury of deterrence. . . . When a plaintiff is not deterred from returning to a facility, there is not a unification of barriers into one injury in fact constituting deterrence. Thus, there can be no standing to challenge unencountered barriers.

(citations and footnotes omitted)