Understand the complexities and nuances of the Bankruptcy Code to better advise clients and prepare for court.
By Stephanie Cumings
Dec. 11 — A bankruptcy attorney didn't violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or any other laws, when he allegedly forced his client to attend a bankruptcy hearing when she was having an allergic reaction.
Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson found that the plaintiff had failed to meet the basic requirements of proving any of her claims against her own attorney and dismissed the case.
The debtor Barbara Weber was at a bankruptcy hearing when she allegedly had an allergic reaction to something in the courtroom. After she left the courtroom, Weber claimed her attorney forced her to return to sign some paperwork.
Weber responded by suing her own attorney for violating a variety of federal statutes. In addition to the ADA, Weber sued her attorney for violating the Rehabilitation Act, the Architectural Barriers Act, the Washington Law Against Discrimination, the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, and the American Bar Association Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law.
The attorney moved to dismiss the complaint.
Weber alleged that her attorney failed to make “reasonable accommodations” for her allergic reaction in violation of the ADA. But the court found that her private attorney wasn't a “public entity” under the ADA. The court found it was irrelevant that he was “an attorney licensed by the State of Washington who serves the public.” Furthermore, the court said that “merely entering the federal courthouse” doesn't subject an attorney to ADA liability.
The court also rejected the notion that the courthouse was a place of “public accommodation” under the ADA, which the court said typically includes “various private entities, if the operations of such entities affect commerce, including places of lodging, establishments serving food or drink, theaters, places used for public transportation, and places of education.” And even assuming it was such a place, the attorney doesn't “own, lease, or operate” the courthouse as required by the statute.
The court found that Weber similarly failed to meet the requirements for stating a valid claim under any of the other laws, and therefore granted the motion to dismiss.
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