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Kornblau v. Dade County

June 20, 1996


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. (No. 94-655-CIV). Donald L. Graham, Judge.

Before Tjoflat, Chief Judge, and Roney and Phillips,*fn* Senior Circuit Judges.

Author: Roney

RONEY, Senior Circuit Judge:

The district court granted summary judgment in this case for Dade County and against the plaintiff, who, by this suit, sought access as a disabled person to a parking space in a private employee parking lot that she would not have been entitled to use even if she were not disabled. We affirm.

There is no issue of fact. The decision turns on the proper interpretation of a federal statute and its regulations.

Plaintiff Barbara Kornblau, by virtue of her difficulty in walking due to arthritis, is a disabled person entitled to the benefits of Title II of the American with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132. The regulations that implement the Act provide that where parking is provided for a public building, a certain number of spaces must be provided for the disabled, located on the shortest accessible route of travel to the entrance of the building. 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, app. A, § 4.6.2.

Metropolitan Dade County's Government Center Building provides several public parking lots where plaintiff is entitled to park. These parking lots meet the requirements for the number and location of disabled parking spaces. The parking lot closest to the entrance to the building, however, is reserved with marked spaces for the county commissioners and certain senior management officials of the County. Plaintiff, who is not a County employee, wants the County to provide a disabled parking space in that employees' private lot that would be available to her, basing that claim upon the ADA.

The ADA was enacted to provide a national mandate "for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities." 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1). Although the Act must be broadly construed, Kinney v. Yerusalim, 812 F. Supp. 547, 551 (E.D.Pa.), aff'd 9 F.3d 1067 (3d Cir.1993), cert. denied, U.S., 114 S. Ct. 1545, 128 L. Ed. 2d 196 (1994), nothing in the Act, its purpose, or the regulations can reasonably be read to give disabled parkers access to areas that would not be available to them if they were not disabled. The purpose of the Act is to place those with disabilities on an equal footing, not to give them an unfair advantage. In re Rubenstein, 637 A.2d 1131 (Del.1994). The discrimination that must be eliminated is the discriminatory effect that results because of the disability. As Judge Ryskamp said in a decision granting a preliminary injunction enforcing the Act in another context, to show a violation of Title II the plaintiff must show disability, the denial of a public benefit, and that such "denial of benefits, or discrimination was by reason of the plaintiff's disability." Concerned Parents to Save Dreher Park Ctr. v. City of West Palm Beach, 846 F. Supp. 986, 990 (S.D.Fla.1994).

Plaintiff seeks to gain an advantage over non-disabled parkers through a confused interpretation of the Accessibility Guidelines adopted as a part of the Department of Justice's Regulations with regard to Title II of the ADA, contained in Appendix A to Part 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, referred to as "ADAAG." Regulations promulgated by the Department of Justice interpreting the ADA are, of course, entitled to considerable weight. Noland v. Wheatley, 835 F. Supp. 476, 483 (N.D.Ind.1993). See also, Parker v. Bowen, 788 F.2d 1512, 1518 (11th Cir.1986); Helen L. v. DiDario, 46 F.3d 325, 331-32 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, U.S., 116 S. Ct. 64, 133 L. Ed. 2d 26 (1995); Thurber v. Browner, 3 Am. Disabilities Cas. (BNA) 1257, 1994 WL 395007 (N.D.Ill.1994). While we note the regulations cannot require more than a reasonably interpreted Act can require, see Robbins v. Bentsen, 41 F.3d 1195 (7th Cir.1994); Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States Envtl. Protection Agency, 306 U.S. App. D.C. 357, 25 F.3d 1063 (D.C.Cir.1994), it is not necessary to fall back on that principle here. The regulations here simply do not require what the plaintiff claims they require.

We are satisfied that Judge Graham made a proper interpretation of the regulations which we set forth in full as follows:

The dispositive issue in this case is whether Dade County is required by the ADA to provide disabled parking spaces for visitors to the Government Center Building in an adjacent parking lot reserved for County Commissioners and Senior Management Officials. To determine this issue, the Court must review the regulations contained in Appendix A to 28 C.F.R. Part 36.

Kornblau argues that Dade County is not in compliance with 28 C.F.R. Pt. 36, App. A § 4.6.2 and, therefore, is in violation of the ADA. 28 C.F.R. § 4.6.2 provides:

Accessible parking spaces serving a particular building shall be located on the shortest accessible route of travel from adjacent parking to an accessible entrance. In parking facilities that do not serve a particular building, accessible parking shall be located on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible pedestrian entrance of the parking facility. In buildings with multiple accessible entrances with adjacent parking, accessible parking spaces shall be dispersed and located closest to the accessible entrances.

While Kornblau does not dispute Dade County's argument that this section distinguishes between employee and visitor parking, she insists that the regulations require that disabled parking be provided at the shortest accessible route which in this case would be the employee ...

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