Public Accommodation Discrimination Lawsuit Against Movie Theater Dismissed

In Roberman v. Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Holdings, LLC, No. 508293/2019, 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 20013, 2020 WL 253372 (NY Sup Ct, Kings Cty. Jan. 13, 2020), the court held that plaintiff – a hearing-impaired individual – did not state a claim for disability discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Plaintiff alleged, in sum, that upon arriving at the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, she was given an external closed captioning device to view a movie, and that the failure to provide open captioning amounted to a violation of the Human Rights Law. The court disagreed.

As to plaintiff’s failure-to-accommodate claim, the court summarized the substantive law as follows:

“[U]nder the appropriate prima facie standard of Section 8-107(15) of the NYCHRL in the context of public accommodations, [a plaintiff] must show that: (1) [he or she] has a disability; (2) [the defendant] knew or should have known of the disability; (3) an accommodation would enable [the plaintiff] to use or enjoy the public accommodation; (4) and [the defendant] refused to provide an accommodation (In the Matter of Commission on Human Rights ex rel. Estelle Stamm, Petitioner, v. E & E Bagels, Inc., Respondent., OATH Index No. 803/14, 2016 WL 1644879, at *6). “The reasonableness of an [ … ] accommodation is a ‘fact-specific’ question that often must be resolved by a factfinder. But in a case [ … ] in which [a covered entity] has already taken (or offered) measures to accommodate the disability, [the covered entity] is entitled to summary judgment if, on the undisputed record, the existing accommodation is ‘plainly reasonable’ ” (Noll v. Intl. Bus. Machines Corp., 787 F.3d 89, 94 [2d Cir. 2015]). “Whether or not something constitutes a reasonable accommodation is necessarily fact-specific. Therefore, determinations on this issue must be made on a case-by-case basis”.

Specifically, the question was whether, under all the facts and circumstances here, the external closed captioning device offered to plaintiff was a reasonable accommodation.

Applying the law, the court held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate the the external closed captioning device was not a reasonable accommodation. Notably, in her complaint, plaintiff “neither alleged that she notified Defendant that her device was defective, nor that she requested a working unit or another form of accommodation.”


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