IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SOUTHERN DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff,

v.

EMPLOYEES’ RETIREMENT
SYSTEMS OF ALABAMA,
TEACHERS’ RETIREMENT
SYSTEMS OF ALABAMA, and
PCH HOTELS & RESORTS, INC.

 

Defendants.








Civil Action No.

1:14-cv-00478-CB-N

COMPLAINT

    Plaintiff, the United States of America, by its attorney Kenyen R. Brown, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, alleges as follows:

  1. The United States of America brings this civil action to redress discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et seq., and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36.  As set forth more fully below, the Defendants own and/or manage a hotel in Mobile, Alabama, the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa, which is not in compliance with the ADA.
  2. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  3. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(B) and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345.
  4. Venue lies in the Southern District of Alabama pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa is located within this District and the acts of discrimination alleged in the complaint in this case occurred in this District.
  5. PARTIES

  6. Plaintiff is the United States of America (“United States”).
  7. The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa (“Hotel” or “Battle House”) is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7) because, among other things, it is “an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging.”  42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(A); see 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.  It is located in Mobile, Alabama, at 26 South Royal Street.
  8. Defendants Teachers’ Retirement Systems of Alabama and Employees’ Retirement Systems of Alabama (collectively “RSA”) own the Hotel.
  9. Defendant PCH Hotels & Resorts, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of RSA, manages the Hotel for RSA.  It is therefore a public accommodation within the meaning of Title III of the ADA because it operates the Hotel, a place of public accommodation.  See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
  10. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  11. The Battle House is a landmark building in downtown Mobile, Alabama, located at 26 South Royal Street.  The original building, constructed in 1852, burned down in 1905.  The current structure was built in 1908.  Closed in the late 1960s, the hotel remained shuttered for decades.  Beginning in 2002, the RSA purchased and restored the Hotel, adding a new parking deck, spa, pool, and fitness center, all located across the street from the Hotel on St. Francis Street.
  12. At the same time, RSA constructed an office tower adjacent and attached to the Hotel, the RSA Battle House Tower (“RSA Tower”) at 11 North Water Street, Mobile, Alabama.  In 2007, the Hotel was re-opened as the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa.  Several floors of the RSA Tower form part of the Hotel and contain guest rooms and suites.  The RSA Tower’s entrances serve as entrances to the Hotel as well.
  13. A complaint was lodged with the United States by a former guest of the Hotel, alleging that the Hotel had discriminated against her on the basis of her disability.  The complainant, who uses a wheelchair, alleged that the Hotel, its restaurants, and amenities were not readily accessible to and usable by her and other individuals with disabilities.
  14. In response to this complaint, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama conducted an investigation to determine whether the Hotel was in compliance with the ADA and its implementing regulation.  With the full cooperation of Defendants, the United States surveyed the Hotel for compliance with the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, 28 C.F.R. Part 36, App. D (2012) (“1991 Standards”) and the supplemental requirements of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (“2010 Standards”), which consist of the 2004 ADA Accessibility Guidelines, (“ADAAG”), appendices B and D to 36 C.F.R. Pt. 1191, and the requirements contained in subpart D of 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
  15. The investigation revealed that Defendants violate Title III of the ADA and its regulation because:  1) The Hotel was not designed and constructed to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities in compliance with 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(1) and 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.402, 36.403, and 36.406; and 2) the Hotel was not altered in a way that is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities to the maximum extent feasible in compliance with 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(2) and 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.402, 36.403, and 36.406.  ADA violations within the Hotel include, but are not limited to, the following:

    1. Hotel Entrances:

      i. The Royal Street Accessible Entrance & Guest Pull-up Space has no demarcated passenger loading zone, and no curb ramp onto the sidewalk.  As a result, wheelchair users must travel north along a lane of city traffic to reach a city curb ramp at the intersection of Royal and St. Francis Streets in order to gain access to the Royal Street entrances to the Hotel, the Joe Cain restaurant, and the Royal Street Tavern.  1991 Standards §§ 4.1.2(1), 4.1.6(1)(a) and 4.6.6.

      ii. The Dauphin Street Accessible Entrance and Passenger Loading Zone has routes exceeding the permissible running and cross slope measurements; the ground surface in the passenger loading zone area is unstable and is not level; and the designated accessible ramp does not have a level ramp landing at the bottom.  These conditions make it difficult for persons with disabilities to use this entrance.  1991 Standards §§ 4.1.2(1)(2), 4.3.7, and 4.8.4.

    2. Valet Parking

      i. The Hotel provides valet parking only, with no modifications of the policy to allow individuals with disabilities whose vehicles are equipped with hand controls and/or other accessible modifications the choice to self-park their vehicles, in violation of 28 C.F.R. § 36.302.

    3. Interior Ramps
    4. i. Royal Street Entrance Interior Ramp – The intermediate landing does not allow a full 60 inch by 60 inch minimum landing area, required to permit individuals using wheelchairs to negotiate the turn. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(1), 4.3.7, and 4.8.4(3).

      ii. Dauphin Street Lobby Interior Ramp – The lower landing of this ramp is obstructed by a structural column, requiring a 90 degree left turn. The depth of the turn landing is only 40 inches, rather than the 60 inches required to permit individuals using wheelchairs to negotiate the turn. 1991 Standards§§ 4.1.3(1), 4.3.7, and 4.8.4(2).

      iii. Third Floor North Corridor (Route to Fitness Center, Pool, and Spa) – This connecting corridor exceeds the maximum five (5) per cent allowed running slope for accessible routes in several places. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(1) and 4.3.7.

    5. Interior Route from St. Francis Street Accessible Entrance to Main Hotel Lobby
    6. i. The accessible route does not coincide with the route used by the general public. A person using a wheelchair who enters from St. Francis Street is required to turn left and make a circuit of the interior of the RSA Tower in order to reach an accessible ramp leading to the Main Hotel Lobby, rather than proceeding to the right, directly towards the Lobby, as is possible for persons without mobility disabilities. See 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.2(2) and 4.3.2(1)(2).

    7. Signage
    8. i. The Hotel lacks signage with the International Symbol of Accessibility to indicate the accessible entrances, and the routes from inaccessible entrances to designated accessible entrances. The Hotel further lacks signage throughout the lobby area and first floor indicating the accessible route from accessible entrances to various locations throughout the Hotel. See 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.2(7), 4.1.6(1)(h), and 4.30.7.

    9. Door Pressure
    10. i. The force required to open interior public access doors throughout the Hotel and its facilities routinely exceeds the maximum allowable opening force of five (5) pounds, making them difficult or impossible for persons with disabilities to open. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(7)(a) and 4.1.3(11)(2)(b).

    11. Swimming Pool Entrance, Ramp, Deck
    12. i. Neither the lap pool, nor the hot tub spa, has an accessible means of entry and exit, with the result that a person with disabilities cannot use them. 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design §§ 242 and 1009. ("2010 Standards"). See 28 C.F.R. § 36.104 (defining the "2010 Standards" as the requirements set forth in appendices B and D to 36 C.F.R. part 1191 and the requirements contained in subpart D of 28 C.F.R. part 36).

      ii. The intermediate Ramp Landing is only 37 inches long, instead of the required 60 inches. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.2(2), 4.3.7, and 4.8.4(2).

      iii. The slope of the Accessible Route to the Tennis Court Entrance exceeds the maximum five (5) per cent allowed running slope for accessible routes. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.2(2), 4.3.7.

    13. Women's Spa
    14. i. The whirlpool located in the Quiet Room of the Women's Spa does not have an accessible means of entry. 2010 Standards §§ 242.4, 1009.2, 1009.4, and 1009.5.

      ii. All three Swiss showers attached to massage spa treatment rooms are inaccessible. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(11), 4.21, and 4.23.8.

      iii. The accessible shower compartment in the Women's Dressing Room is not the correct configuration and the shower controls are not located adjacent to the seat. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(11), 4.21, and 4.23.8.

    15. Men's Spa
    16. i. The Men's Whirlpool is not located on an accessible route and has no accessible means of entry. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(1), 4.3; 2010 Standards §§ 242.4, 1009.2, 1009.4, and 1009.5.

      ii. The shower compartment configuration is incorrect and the shower controls in the accessible shower compartment in the Men's Dressing Room are not located adjacent to the seat and are too high. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(11), 4.21, and 4.23.8.

    17. Fitness Center Locker Rooms Accessible Showers
    18. i. The accessible showers in both women's and men's locker rooms exceed allowed dimensions for transfer shower compartments. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(11), 4.23.8, and 4.21.1.

    19. Public Toilet Rooms
    20. i. Public restrooms throughout the Hotel and RSA Tower lack accessible lavatories located at proper counter height levels. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(11), 4.22.6, and 4.19.2.

      ii. Public restrooms throughout the Hotel and RSA Tower lack mirrors mounted at the accessible height levels. 1991 Standards §§ 4.1.3(11), 4.22.6, and 4.19.6.

    21. Accessible Guest Rooms
    22. i. The ten designated accessible guest rooms of the Hotel are not dispersed among all classes of guest rooms. The best rooms of the Hotel are inaccessible to people with disabilities, thereby denying them a range of options equivalent to those available to other persons served by the Hotel. 1991 Standards §§ 9.1.2, 9.1.4, and 9.2.1. Further, all six standard accessible rooms have inferior views of roof tops.

      ii. A number of the bathrooms in designated accessible guest rooms violate the 1991 Standards by, variously: 1) failing to provide adequate clear floor space for wheelchairs at the toilets and locating the toilets too far from the nearest side walls, 1991 Standards §§ 9.1.2, 9.2.2(6)(e), 4.23.4, 4.16.2, and Figure 28; 2) failing to provide grab bars in the bathtubs, 1991 Standards §§ 9.1.2, 9.2.2(6)(e), 4.23.8, and 4.20.4; 3) failing to provide bathtub seats; and 4) mounting bathtub faucets and controls where they cannot be reached by a person with disabilities, 1991 Standards §§ 9.1.2, 9.2.2(6)(e), 4.23.8, 4.20.5, and Figure 34.

    Cause of Action under Title III of the ADA

  16. The allegations of Paragraphs 1-12 are hereby realleged and incorporated by reference
  17. Defendants have discriminated against individuals with disabilities in violation of Title III of the ADA. Defendants have failed to 1) design and construct facilities that are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; and 2) alter their building so as to ensure that, to the maximum extent feasible, the altered portions of the Hotel are readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.401 and 36.402.

    This unlawful discrimination raises an issue of general public importance within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(B)(ii) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.503(b).

    Prayer for Relief

    WHEREFORE, THE United States of America prays that this Court enter judgment:

    1. Declaring that Defendants have violated Title III of the ADA and its implementing regulation;
    2. Ordering Defendants to remove all violations of Title III of the ADA, including, but not limited to, the violations set forth above;
  18. Granting such other relief as the interests of justice may require

 

 

 

Dated: Oct. 14, 2014



 

 

Dated: Oct. 14, 2014

/s/ Molly J. Moran
MOLLY J. MORAN
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
United States Department of Justice

KENYEN R. BROWN
United States Attorney
Southern District of Alabama

STEVEN BUTLER
First Assistant United States Attorney
Chief, Civil Division

/s/ Holly L. Wiseman
HOLLY L. WISEMAN
Assistant United States Attorney
United States Attorney’s Office
Civil Rights Enforcement Unit
Southern District of Alabama
63 Royal Street, Suite 600
Mobile, Alabama 36602
Telephone:  251-415-7104
Email: holly.wiseman@usdoj.gov

 
 

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