Lindsay High School has a football field typical of those found at many small high schools. The field consists of a turf field surrounded by a chain-link fence. Beyond the fence lies a single set of bleachers on the south side of the field. There is no other public seating at the field.
The bleachers were built in 1971 and never altered. The bleachers are not wheelchair accessible. Instead, the District designates three locations from which wheelchair users can watch football games. The District also permits wheelchair users to sit on paved areas on both the north and south sides of the field along the chain link fence.
Timothy Daubert is disabled and uses a wheelchair for mobility. In the past, he occasionally attended football games at the School. In 2009, he filed a lawsuit against the District claiming a violation of the Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") because the bleachers are not wheelchair-accessible. Daubert claimed he "could not fully enjoy" the games because he had an "inferior view of the field."
The trial court granted judgment in favor of the District finding that the bleachers were an existing facility under the ADA that do not have to be altered to provide wheelchair access as long as the District provided Daubert access to football games at the field.
Daubert appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court's decision.
The court of appeals found that the bleachers constitute an "existing facility" that need not be "accessible to and usable by" wheelchair users. "[B]ecause the bleachers were constructed in 1971, they are an existing facility under the applicable regulations. Accordingly, the fact that the bleachers are not accessible does not amount to exclusion under Title II so long as the School District provides program access to programs at the football field – in this case, football games."
The court concluded that Daubert's ADA claim failed because the District did provide program access to football games. "The School District offers many different locations from which spectators who use wheelchairs are able to view football games, and it is undisputed that such spectators enjoy unobstructed views from at least three of these locations."
Significantly, the holding in Daubert v. Lindsay Unified School District applies only to bleachers and stadium seating facilities constructed prior to the January 26, 1992, which have not been altered since construction. The holding does not apply to newly constructed or altered seating facilities.
Daubert v. Lindsay Unified School District (9th Cir. 2014) __ F.3d. __ (2014 WL 3686098)