Man sues local establishments for not meeting ADA guidelines

Friday, February 24, 2012 at 2:51pm

Two downtown Nashville establishments and a hotel are being sued for allegedly not complying with disability standards.

Michael McGrath, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a powered wheelchair, filed lawsuits against Robert’s Western World, B.B. King’s Restaurant and Blues Club and the airport-area DoubleTree Hotel on Thursday.

The complaints allege that those places of business don’t follow Americans with Disabilities Act standards pertaining to access issues.

According to the lawsuit, the DoubleTree Hotel has an insufficient number of handicap parking spaces, ramps that don’t have handrails and steep curbs in the parking lot.

McGrath, who serves on Tennessee’s State Rehabilitation Council, also claims B.B. King’s and Robert’s Western World have several access obstacles and noncompliant bathrooms.

“I never sue for personal financial gain. I just want the businesses to make the changes to prevent further discrimination of people with disabilities,” McGrath said in an email to The City Paper.

“People with disabilities are consumers and we spend money too. If we cannot get in your shop, you are missing out on business.”

McGrath filed five similar lawsuits against restaurants and the University of Tennessee in the Eastern District of Tennessee over the past three years. Two of those cases were settled out of a court, with a stipulation that the establishments make changes pursuant to the ADA.

That act, signed in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush, stipulates that “public accommodations” must be made by “commercial facilities,” or otherwise be considered discriminatory.

“McGrath has now and continues to have reasonable grounds for believing that he has been and will be discriminated against because of the Defendant’s continuing deliberate and knowing violations of the ADA,” the lawsuit states.

ADA complaints can be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division or filed via lawsuit in federal court, according to the DOJ website.

“Some people say, why don’t you just write a letter. Letter writing campaigns rarely work and are often ignored,” McGrath said. “Again, the ADA is not new. It's been a law for 20 years. It’s time to start following the law.”

Management at the places named in the suit had not return calls to The City Paper as of Friday afternoon.

22 Comments on this post:

By: Jughead on 2/24/12 at 1:56

People who do nothing but file lawsuits are scum. America has become a nation of pathetic, whining, entitled pukes.

By: sowhat on 2/24/12 at 2:15

Hope you get to spend a few years in a wheelchair. Find out what it's like, then see how much a stupid, pathetic puke like you whines about access. LIke he said, it is a 20 year old law and to not be compliant now deserves a lawsuit. Idiot.

By: Jughead on 2/24/12 at 2:19

SoWhat: You are grossly misinformed, and quite stupid. There are ADA Nazis out there that travel the country looking for trouble. They sue small business owners and cause working people incredible attorney's fees--just because they can.

My statement stands: if you purpose in life is to file lawsuits, your are scum.

Now go sit in the corner and try to matter, loser.

By: JeffF on 2/24/12 at 2:56

There was an episode of Glee in which a couple of the characters saw the ADA craze and harassed a business. When an issue comical is big enough to make it into a TV program society may have a litigation problem.

And to think there are people who swear tort reform is not necessary.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/24/12 at 3:57

I would like to sue this piece of crap for impersonating a human being.

By: Ask01 on 2/24/12 at 4:51

I believe the reality lies somewhere in the middle in this situation.

An older building may very well not be in compliance, as the ADA was not in force at the time therefore, I feel at least, the structure should be grandfathered and protected unless remodeled.

Any new, or recently remodeled structure, however, should be expected to be in compliance to meet the requirements.

I do have one question though.

While Mr McGrath is quoted as saying "Letter writing campaigns rarely work..." the article does not say he even tried before filing the lawsuits. Given his reputation as a litigation junkie, his letter might have gotten someone's attention, so did he ever bother to contact them, or did he just swoop in out of the sun with litigating guns blazing?

While he may be legally in the right, he comes across as a trouble making old poop if he bypassed the business, going straight to the court.

A very tacky maneuver indeed.

By: ralane on 2/24/12 at 4:59

I have heard of these people before, they are mad at the world due to their circumstance. They even put small businesses out of business that just can't afford to make the changes or fight the battle. I have run into many obstacles and have had people help me out, never a need for a lawsuit,and I did not care if they made changes to their businesses to accommodate me. This really gives disabled folks a bad rap. p.s. I don't even care if the handicap spots are full, I'll just take one a little farther out and unload there. There are always good people around to help you if you get the chip of your shoulder.

By: RTungsten on 2/24/12 at 4:59

I think he should be required to visit these establishments and spend at least the amount of $$$ it takes them to make changes to accodomate him. I'm sure I'll catch flack for saying that, but oh well.

By: rickmuz on 2/24/12 at 9:28

"McGrath, who serves on Tennessee’s State Rehabilitation Council, also claims B.B. King’s and Robert’s Western World have several access obstacles and noncompliant bathrooms" BOTH in buildings over 100 years old and HEAVILY governed by Metro historic commission. Changing bathrooms is one thing, changing entrances and aesthetics is another.

By: agelesssone on 2/25/12 at 10:34

I have been to Robert's Western World a few times. His restroom (men's) is patheticically unsanitary. 1 toilet stall and one urinal for how many hundreds of guests. The guy doesn't have to pay the band, the owner is one of the "Brazilbillies" band that plays on the weekends from 10-2:30, he makes gazillions of dollars selling overpriced drinks and he still won't upgrade his bathroom???? He should be made to shut down for a month and see how that affects his bottom line!

By: clsand99 on 2/25/12 at 11:23

I can't speak about the hotel, but I can tell you that most of the bathrooms at the downtown bars & honky tonks are NOT sufficiently accessible to even fully-capable patrons. And they are an embarrassment to this tourist-centric community. The downtown bathrooms are mostly small, dirty, smelly, have uneven floors & toilets that don't work. Civil law is designed to force change for the good. I hope Mr. McGrath is successful & I hope that all establishments downtown take note & upgrade their facilities.

By: govskeptic on 2/26/12 at 6:13

I not disabled but I find all those places lacking in many ways myself.
Can I be a co-plaintiff?

By: Ask01 on 2/27/12 at 6:58

While we are on the subject, I want a law to require businesses to provide public access to toilet facilities. In fact, the city should be included in that suit requiring them to establish more public facilities.

I have reached the point in my life where when I need to go, I need to go. Period. There is no time for discussion. For example, the last time I was in the Arcade, there were no publicly accessible toilet facilities. Considering the number of eating facilities, it seems almost a public health issue. Sue the Arcade to provided adequate facilities or close down.( I will admit some time has passed since my last visit, so if this is no longer the case I apologize.)

Youngsters need not become smug and arrogant, shaking their heads. I was once like that and Karma snuck up on me and paid me back.

Since we are addressing everyones needs, I want mine attended to also.

By: tenn40 on 2/27/12 at 7:57

How many times has anyone seen anyone else blind or otherwise use the braille found in elevators or any other place? I've never seen anyone use it. Completely wasted taxpayer money. When public money is taken from private pockets and spent unwisely, the country suffers horribly like it is now!

By: Ask01 on 2/27/12 at 8:11

I touched the braille signs once out of curiosity.

At first, I'm sure this was quite expensive, but now, I see this almost everywhere, so I am going to take a leap here and guess this is an option which can be ordered or perhaps has become so commonplace, it is standard. So there would be, presumably, no additional costs.

Now, about those public toilets.......

By: Jughead on 2/27/12 at 8:20

I know of three businesses that were targeted by these ADA Nazis. All of the owners were very helpful to ALL patrons, and the attorney's fees just to respond to the complaints/US Attorney were astronomical.

All three resulted in very minor changes--posting a sign, etc.--and then the ADA nazi attorneys asked for their fees to be paid by the business owner.

That is friggin extortion, and that is the state of a pathetic, whining, entitled United States. Sue,sue,sue....and get liberal judges on your side.

Sick. Litigation whores are scum.

By: Rocket99 on 2/27/12 at 8:44

While litigation is defined as a way to address the ADA violations, I do not think it should be the first or even second way of dealing with the offending business. Litigation should only be used when all other avenues have been exhausted. If the business is deliberately ignoring the law, then pursue court action. not as the 1st line of attack.

I actually thought there was things in place where "historic" places did not have to comply as well as places being "grandfathered" in. I do know in Nashville, there are codes requirements. If those are not being enforced, they should be. If they are being met, then no lawsuit.

Mr McGrath does come across as being vindictive. Basically, "in your face". This actually makes the disabled community, of which I am a part of, look bad & whiny. Like a bunch of cry babies who didn't get their way so they try bullying people.

By: Wild Bill on 2/28/12 at 7:32

Mr. McGrath says he does not do it for the money. However, he and the law firm that he works for do get paid and I mean get paid a lot. How much does he get paid? Well they always make sure that the settlement is out of court so there is no public record of just how much they got from the shake down.

If you could see the regulations on bathrooms alone it would boggle your mind. Some of those business just do not have the room for and ADA compliant bathroom so out of business they go and the employees, well that's just tough luck for them.

Also, the ADA regulations are constantly being reviewed and updated. Yes, the ADA law is 20 years old but the actual regulations are changing all of the time and never to make it easier. And the main people who are making the changes are federal lawyers who then end up going to work for law firms like the one that Mr. McGrath works with.

Just more big government corptokrats.

By: Shenyana on 3/1/12 at 1:45

I know mr. McGrath personally. He is not affiliated with any law firm, nor is he an attorney. He is a young man who enjoys going out with his friends and having a good time, he simply cannot walk into a place of business. The ADA laws have been ignored for far too long. It is past time for them to be upheld. I know that not all of us need the accessibility right now, but who is to say what may happen to us or one of our friends or family tomorrow. None of us want to just sit and stagnate, being treated as second class citizens, or worse yet as if we have no value to society at all. The ADA requirements were made for a reason. Make accommodations so that people with differing needs can continue to live their life.

By: Equalityisimportant on 3/1/12 at 2:27

Wow some of these comments are crazy! Way to judge somebody you don't even know! This article is so general and doesn't say anything about Mr. McGrath as a person, who he works for etc. I find some of these comments disturbing! Like Shenyana said there are handicap people who like to go out and enjoy life just like everybody else! Should they have to stay in and be shunned like the old days!?!? Should they have to go out to their vehicle to pee in a urinal because they can't fit in the bathroom? They should be able to enjoy the world like the rest of us I mean this is 2012! Handicap people are not going anywhere especially with all these injured soldier’s coming back from war!! Should they not be able to go out to these establishments with friends and family?
His litigation is just to make changes it is NOT for financial gain! I agree most businesses may not realize they don't meet ADA guidelines but as a SMART business owner they should know about them! There are plenty of business's that take the time renovate but STILL don't make things ADA compliant! This law was implemented for a reason it should be enforced!
P.s. Jughead didn't your parents teach you if you have nothing nice to say don't say anything at all?

By: reddirtroad on 3/1/12 at 4:25

There are several misconceptions at work here. This is important so I truly hope many of you will read this comment. First, "suing" under the ADA is NOT a tort suit. Tort reform has nothing to do with this lawsuit and would not touch this cause of action. Bringing a lawsuit under the ADA is a form of litigation but does not entitle the plaintiff to ANY money. The only way the ADA would entitle private plaintiffs to receive a monetary award, is if the state has enacted a similar piece of legislation that would enable a private litigant to receive damages from these businesses. These states are California, Hawaii, Illinois and Florida. In California, there is a documented problem of "professional plaintiffs" ... I would agree that this is potentially an abuse of the system.

These plaintiffs are suing for injunctive relief only - that is, the changes to the establishment. It is merely a means of bringing business into compliance with the law. A law, I might add, that was signed by George H.W. Bush, so to those of you who suggest there is anything partisan or liberal-leaning about this issue, please be aware of what party thought that access for disabled americans was important. And, the DOJ has full capability to "sue" these businesses themselves, but they have neither the time, nor the money to do so, (your taxpayer dollars being saved actually) so private plaintiffs are entitled to do so at their own risk - as Mr. McGrath has risked being called "Scum" to do so.

Second, no small business here is being targeted. These businesses are required to comply with the law. Right here on the ADA website, is an easily accessible packet entitled: "ADA Update: A Primer for small Businesses" is easy to find out how to comply with the law.

Last I would suggest that each of you with vicious words to say spend a day in a wheelchair. I'm not saying it would change your opinion, but it would give you the basis to form those opinions. To those of you who are disabled, I would say you are entitled to your opinion and hope that you realize most people like Mr. McGrath have good intentions.

By: bessiebug57 on 3/1/12 at 9:28

For those of you who are saying such horrible things about Mike. Let me say that you are probably able-bodied and can walk into any establishment of your choice. You don't notice the curb because you step over it. You don't notice if all of the handicapped parking places are full because you walk from your car, sometimes rather briskly because of the rain or cold weather. You can jump into anyone's vehicle and go for a ride. You have never had your heart break for your child because he or she was not able to perform with their peers on stage at school because there was no ramp for them to get on stage. Or they were unable to play with their friends on the playground because it was not safe and the school did nothing to accommodate them. You may not have had to experience this yet... I stress yet. You need to take a look at yourself, your spouse, your child because tomorrow your life may change. And if it does you are going to be glad that Mike McGrath is out there fighting for your rights.