Court: Car dealers might have to install hand controls for disable care shoppers

SAN FRANCISCO
July 10, 2017 11:21am
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•  Appellate court rules in San Diego case

•  “District courts have divided on the legal question presented in this appeal”


Car sellers might need to be ready to install hand controls if requested by disabled car shoppers under a ruling by the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals. The ruling does not define a mandate for the controls but sends the question back to the trial court.

The case involves John Karczewski who sued DCH Mission Valley LLC, a San Diego Honda dealer. Mr. Karczewski, a licensed driver, is paralyzed from the waist down and must used hand controls. He wanted to test drive a car but the dealer declined to install temporary controls. The refusal ended up in court, with a three-judge pane of the 9th Circuit finding in favor of the would-be driver.

The decision helps resolve long-standing legal arguments.

“District courts have divided on the legal question presented in this appeal: whether a person seeking to test drive a car may bring a claim under the ADA to require an automobile dealership to install temporary vehicle hand controls, at least in some circumstances, or whether such claims necessarily fail,” the appellate decision explains.

Mr. Karczewski argued that “hand controls are inexpensive, are easy to obtain, work on all types of vehicles, do not disable any safety features, cause no damage, and can be installed … without much difficulty or expense,” says the court. The car dealer’s argument to the contrary “may ultimately carry the day, perhaps even at summary judgment,” the court says in sending the case back to the district court to be tried.

“In sum, taking the allegations in the complaint as true, Plaintiff has stated a claim that Defendant discriminated against him by failing to make a reasonable modification to a policy, practice, or procedure,” the appellate decision says.

But one of the three judges, Jay Bybee, doesn’t totally agree, although he voted with his two colleagues, albeit reluctantly.

“Installing vehicle hand controls cannot be a reasoned application of the ADA’s command to ‘remove architectural barriers . . . in existing facilities’ for the simple reason that ‘architectural barriers’ ought to have something to do with architecture,” Mr. Bybee writes.

“These are challenging interpretive questions for the ADA. I question whether the majority has got this one right. On the other hand, I don’t have a full answer for the majority’s analysis. I remain halted between two opinions,” says Mr. Bybee.

Drilldown


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