Gathright-Dietrich v. Atlanta Landmarks, Inc.

452 F.3d 1269 (2006)

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Gathright-Dietrich v. Atlanta Landmarks, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
452 F.3d 1269 (2006)

Facts

Margo Gathright-Dietrich and Bonnie Bonham (plaintiffs) sued the owners of the Fox Theatre (Fox) under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for denying wheelchair users comparable access to events at the Fox. The Fox was a 1920s-era theater in downtown Atlanta that was designated as a historic landmark by both the state and federal governments due to its historical and architectural significance, including its historic seating configuration, interior décor, and original elevators. Prior to and after passage of the ADA, the Fox undertook alterations to improve accessibility throughout the building. Removable seats, ramps, elevators, and other additions were installed to allow wheelchair access to the theater, stage, restrooms, concessions, and telephones. Gathright-Dietrich and Bonham were wheelchair-users and patrons of the Fox. Gathright-Dietrich and Bonham’s lawsuit claimed that the Fox violated the ADA because wheelchair-users’ access to the building was inferior to that of non-wheelchair patrons in several areas, including ticket pricing, restrooms, and concessions. Gathright-Dietrich and Bonham presented three proposals for altering the Fox to accommodate disabled patrons that included eliminating some seats belonging to season-ticket holders to add wheelchair-accessible seating, modification of the floor, and addition of raised platforms. The proposals failed to include specific details, cost analysis, or evaluation of the impact the alterations would have on the theater’s historic features. The Fox, in turn, presented evidence that the proposed alterations would be difficult, cost-prohibitive, and would directly impact specific historic features. The district court granted the Fox’s motion for summary judgment, and Gathright-Dietrich and Bonham appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Dubina, J.)

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