Kohler v. Bed Bath & Beyond

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 02-19-2015
  • Case #: 12-56727
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judge Reinhardt and District Judge Motz
  • Full Text Opinion

It is not required under the Americans with Disabilities Act that there be wall space within the maneuvering clearance next to the frame of a restroom door that must be pulled open, unless it is equipped with a “latch.”

Chris Kohler is a paraplegic who is confined to a wheelchair. While shopping at Bed, Bath, & Beyond (“BB&B”), Kohler faced a physical barrier that made the use of the restroom difficult. According to the record, there was less than ten inches of “strike-side” wall space on the “pull side” of the restroom door, which Kohler claims made opening the door difficult. Additionally, there was less than three inches of “strike-side” wall or floor space on the “push side” of the same door, which also it made it troublesome for Kohler to open. Kohler then brought suit for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), for insufficient strike-side clearance next to the restroom door. Granting summary judgment for BB&B, the district court held that the requirement of twelve-inch strike-side clearance is only needed if the door has a privacy “latch.” On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether summary judgment was appropriate. The panel explained that according to Oliver v. Ralphs Grocery Co., the ADA prohibits various forms of discrimination on the basis of disability. Additionally, new facilities need to be “readily accessible” and “usable” by those with disabilities. These guidelines are outlined by the ADA, except those under the “safe harbor” provision, meaning that a building that complied with the 1991 Guidelines will not be required to make any architectural changes, and does not have to comply with the 2010 Guidelines. Kohler argues that under both the 1991 and 2010 Guidelines, BB&B fails. However, the panel held that maneuvering space relates only to the floor space and air right above it, not the wall space, and because this door was not “latched” no maneuvering space was required next to the frame that must be pushed open. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court’s ruling for summary judgment. AFFIRMED.

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