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Largest damages settlement in Disabilities Case puts Levi’s Stadium and 49ers in the spotlight

Peiffer Wolf’s Cat Cabalo, along with two co-counsels, scored largest damages settlement in a case alleging discrimination in public accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The story of the case involving the 49ers and the Levi’s Stadium highlights the importance to have an experienced ADA lawyer on your side.

Levi’s Stadium: how a 49ers fan had to turn to Americans with Disabilities Act to be able to watch the games

By Cat Cabalo

As a disability civil rights attorney, I have had the luxury of feeling good about what I do every day. But there are some cases that remind me exactly why I do what I do and the impact that one case can have for hundreds of people, if not more.

When I first met with Abdul and Priscilla Nevarez, I felt an immediate connection with them – they are salt of the earth who love their family and all of the activities that bring their family together, including watching the San Francisco 49ers play. I also grew up a 49ers fan, watching Joe Montana and Steve Young with my Dad. So, when Abdul and Priscilla told me about how difficult it was for them to attend 49ers games with their kids and friends at the then brand-spanking-new Levi’s Stadium (the “Stadium”), I was extremely disappointed.

Abdul was injured in a motorcycle accident that left him with an amputated leg above the knee and severe nerve damage, muscle weakness, and numbness in his other extremities. Priscilla played a huge part in his recovery, doing everything in her power to continue doing the things that they had always done as a family, including attending 49ers games and Supercross events. Although they were initially excited to check out the new Stadium, their excitement faded quickly when they realized that it was a physical and emotional ordeal to attend an event there. They encountered problems and barriers for Abdul and his wheelchair at every stage of the process: finding accessible parking, traveling from parking to the Stadium, getting through security checkpoints, finding an elevator to get to their seats, and ordering concessions. The multitude of barriers at the Stadium made them question if they would ever be able to enjoy a 49ers game or any other event at the Stadium.

In December of 2016, we filed a lawsuit on the Nevarezes’ behalf but soon realized how many other physically disabled patrons and their companions also experienced barriers and had difficulty accessing virtually all areas of the Stadium. It became evident that the Nevarezes could obtain broader and more meaningful relief if the case were filed as a class action. We filed an amended class action complaint on the Nevarezes’ behalf and added counsel, Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky LLP and Goldstein Borgen Dardarian & Ho, who also are among the nation’s preeminent law firms that litigate class actions and disability access cases. I was energized by joining forces with such stellar attorneys.

An inspection covered Levi’s Stadium 1.85 million square feet area

We hired a team of experts to help us inspect the Stadium, parking, and pedestrian paths of travel that surround and serve the Stadium, which was no small feat for a Stadium that spans 1.85 million square feet, seats 75,000 people, and has miles of sidewalks around it. We also evaluated the Stadium’s operational policies, including ADA training for employees and contractors and ticket exchange policies for disabled-accessible seating.

After several years of active litigation and vigorous advocacy for the class, the parties reached a landmark settlement that will ensure the Stadium is accessible to physically disabled patrons who use mobility assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. Exchanging tickets for accessible seating will be easier, and new features added to the Stadium well after we filed the initial complaint, such as breastfeeding stations, will also be made accessible. I’m also ecstatic that we secured a damages fund of $24 million, which is the largest damages settlement in a case alleging discrimination in public accommodations under ADA Title II and Title III.

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA on July 26, 2020, I am excited that I will be able to join the Nevarezes at future 49ers games at the Stadium knowing that their experience will be much easier and more enjoyable than their last visit. I just pray that the 49ers play as well in future seasons as they did this past year (and perhaps WIN that very important “last” game of the season the next time they make it there)!

Read more about this case: 49ers agree to settle mobility disability case for $24 million (Yahoo! Sports)

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a piece of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in workplaces, schools, transportation, and essentially all areas of public and private life. The ADA also guarantees that people with disabilities have equal opportunity in public accommodations, places of employment, state and local government services, transportation, and telecommunications. It’s imperative to have an experienced ADA lawyer on your side. Contact Us Today by calling 415-766-3545 or by filling out an online Contact Form for a FREE Consultation.

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