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Connie Arnold v. Radisson Hotel Chatsworth

January 5, 2011

CONNIE ARNOLD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RADISSON HOTEL CHATSWORTH, LANTING HOTEL VENTURES I, INC., LANTING HOTEL VENTURES II, INC.,
AND LAEROCK 2000 INCOME FUND, L.P., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge: Honorable Jacqueline H. Nguyen

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

This is an action for damages brought by Plaintiff Connie Arnold against Defendants Radisson Hotel Chatsworth, Lanting Hotel Ventures I, Inc., Lanting Hotel Ventures II, Inc., and Laerock 2000 Income Fund L.P.. The Complaint seeks relief pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; California Health & Safety Code § 19955 et seq.; California Code of Regulations Title 24-2 ("Title 24-2"); and the California Disabled Persons Act ("CDPA"), Cal. Civ. Code §§ 54 and 54.1. The complaint alleges that Plaintiff is a person with physical disabilities, that she visited the Radisson Hotel located at 9777 Topanga Canyon, Chatsworth, California ("Hotel"), and that Defendants failed to make the Hotel facilities accessible to and useable by persons with disabilities such as Plaintiff. Among other things, Plaintiff claims that "Defendants have failed to provide accessible guestrooms with important amenities, guest parking, guest spa, pool and health club facilities, including public restrooms, as well as other related public facilities that are offered to able-bodied persons." (Compl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff seeks damages pursuant to the CDPA, Cal. Civ. Code § 54.3.*fn1

The parties entered into a Consent Decree and Order adopted by the Court on March 16, 2010 (docket no. 39) for all injunctive relief, requiring Defendants to remove barriers and make the Hotel's facilities readily accessible to people with disabilities. On September 14, 2010, the Court held a court trial to determine Defendants' liability for damages. The following constitute findings of fact and conclusion of law pursuant to Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn2

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

Plaintiff Connie Arnold, who resides in Northern California, is disabled as a result of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and requires a wheelchair for mobility. Plaintiff is an activist in the disabled community. Some of her activities include testifyingon disabilities-related issues before the California legislature and federal government, and participating in demonstrations for the civil rights of persons with disabilities. Plaintiff has filed numerous civil lawsuits in connection with disabilities rights.

On October 7, 2007, Plaintiff and her mother, Jean Arnold, traveled to Los Angeles County for the purposes of visiting Northridge Hospital and Van Nuys for a driver's evaluation. This evaluation was necessary in order for Plaintiff to obtain and operate a new driving system for an accessible van. She later acquired a van with the new driving system.

Prior to this trip, Plaintiff telephoned the Hotel and made reservations for herself and her mother to stay for two nights. She requested a room with a roll-in shower and two beds with "Sleep Number" mattresses as advertised on the Hotel's website. The Hotel employee she spoke with informed her that the ADA accessible rooms had only one bed and none had roll-in showers. Nevertheless, Plaintiff decided to stay at the Hotel because its location was convenient for her to attend the diagnostic evaluation and to see friends in the area of the Hotel.

Upon arriving at the hotel with her mother, Plaintiff parked in a designated van-accessible parking space, but had difficulty traveling from the van to the Hotel because a ramp encroached into the parking space's unloading aisle and because the path of travel was obstructed by a bench and cigarette waste can. In the hotel lobby, Plaintiff required assistance to register because the registration counter had no lowered area for the use of disabled patrons.

In the designated accessible guestroom, Plaintiff encountered barriers including a heavy guestroom door, a closet with a too-narrow door and no lowered pole or shelf, obstructions of the floor space between the closet and bed, insufficient knee clearance at the desk, and incorrectly configured toilet and shower/tub facilities in the bathroom. The guestroom also had only one bed, which Plaintiff and her mother found uncomfortable and painful because of its hardness. After one night's stay, Plaintiff and her mother planned on moving to another hotel but decided to stay when the Hotel offered them an inaccessible guestroom that had two "Sleep Number" beds.

During her stay, Plaintiff also discovered that she could not use the Hotel's pool because there was no pool lift. Furthermore, Plaintiff faced problems when she and her mother ate at the Hotel's restaurant, Hot Tomato!, because it had no accessible seating for wheelchair users. The Hotel's bar also had no lowered section or accessible seating.

Lastly, Plaintiff encountered barriers in various paths of travel around the Hotel. These included obstructions such as benches and trash receptacles, drop-offs with no wheel guards, slippery ramps and ramps with excessive slopes, and noncompliant grab bars.

Plaintiff and her mother arrived at the Hotel in the late afternoon of October 6, 2007. They were away from the Hotel from about 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on October 8, 2007, and they checked out of the Hotel before 9 a.m. on October 9, 2007. During their stay, Plaintiff and her mother did not complain to the Hotel staff other than about the hardness of the bed in the accessible guestroom.

On December 11, 2008, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this case. Plaintiff engaged an expert in physical and programmatic accessibility for persons with disabilities to conduct an accessibility inspection of the Hotel. That inspection confirmed the existence of the barriers Plaintiff identified at the Hotel.

The case proceeded to trial, with a court trial held on September 14, 2010. At trial, Plaintiff requested damages in the amount of $4,000 per violation of federal and state law. Plaintiff did not present proof of actual damages but stated ...


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