In California, a landowner generally owes a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain their property in such a manner as to avoid exposing others to an unreasonable risk of injury. The failure to fulfill this duty is negligence.
Among other things, the obligation above requires the management/employees of a business to ensure there are adequate handicap parking spaces available for their disabled guests, as required by both State and Federal law. The Federal Law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, mandates a certain number of handicap parking spaces so that disabled patrons have the ability to access places of business open to the public. Beyond that, it is expected of business owners that they maintain a regular, meaningful inspection practice relative to the parking and, specifically, that intended for persons with a disability. Simply having marked spaces in the parking lot is not enough, and business owners must ensure those spaces are being used appropriately.
Here in California, business patrons are entitled to the protections of the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA). Sections 54 through 55.2 of the California Civil Code are intended to secure to disabled persons the “same right as the general public to the full and free use” of facilities open to the public. (§54, subd. (a).) Section 54.1 states that “[i]ndividuals with disabilities shall be entitled to full and equal access, as other members of the general public, to accommodations, advantages, facilities, … and privileges of all common carriers, … modes of transportation … , places of public accommodation, … and other places to which the general public is invited … .” (§ 54.1, subd. (a)(1).) “ ‘Full and equal access’ ” is defined by section 54.1 to mean access that complies with the regulations developed under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. §§ 12111–12117), or under state statutes, if the latter impose a higher standard. (§ 54.1, subd. (a)(3).) “Access” refers not only to entry into a building but, more broadly, to the use of all facilities made available for general public use, such as restrooms, parking, and fixtures within a building. (Urhausen v. Longs Drug Stores California, Inc., (2007) 155 Cal. App. 4th 254, 261)
Under both Federal and State law protecting disabled persons, failure to maintain in operable working condition accessible routes for the handicapped is a violation. Obstructions caused by furniture, filing cabinets, or potted plants are prohibited. In one recent case, a concrete trash container, blocking an accessible route of travel to an entrance, presented a breach of this duty under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Madden v. Del Taco, Inc., (2007) 150 Cal. App. 4th 294, 303-304)
When a violation of the laws above leads to an injury, the injured party may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For example, when a handicapped patron is denied safe access to a business and is therefore caused to fall, the injuries and damages sustained are generally compensable. In order to prevail, it must be shown there was a statutory violation and this must have been a substantial factor in causing the accident to occur.
Compensation for victims of equal access violations should be an important concern for all Californians. When a business owner does not provide safe and equal access to disabled patrons (even those suffering from a temporary disability), they should be held accountable. An Orange County trial lawyer with experience at handling such cases can make a fair assessment of these claims. Mr. Ralph has more than 19 years of experience handling personal injury cases, including just this type. He can be reached at 714-919-4415 for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Have you or a loved one been injured because safe and equal access was denied?
- This posting should not be construed as legal advice or an opinion on the merit of any particular matter. A consultation is the best way to obtain an assessment of your potential case.