Expanded right to Sue for Discrimination

A California appeals court has expanded civil rights protections saying victims of discriminatory fees do not need to pay the fee in order to have standing to bring a lawsuit.

The ruling last week came in the case of a paraplegic man, who rented an $80 per night hotel room with his family but was told he had to pay a $300 non-refundable cleaning fee for bringing his service dog.

The Second District Court of Appeal said the facts of this case do not comport with prior precedent that required a person must pay for a business’s services or products in order to have standing to sue.

John Flowers, a paraplegic, who uses a service dog, visited a hotel in southern California, along with his wife and stepsons. The manager refused to rent the $80 room to Flowers unless he also paid a $300 nonrefundable cleaning fee for his dog.  Flowers refused and left without paying the fee or checking in.

He sued for civil rights violation under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. The hotel owners argued he had no standing to sue because he had never paid the fee. The case was dismissed at the trial court and Flowers appealed.

“Neither the language of the Unruh Act nor its history support application of this bright-line rule here,” the panel said. “The history of the Unruh Act and the cases interpreting it make clear that when a person presents himself or herself to a business establishment, and is personally discriminated against… he or she has suffered a discriminatory act and therefore has standing under the Unruh Act,” the panel held.

 

The case now goes back to the trial judge to give Flowers his day in court.

Case: Osborne v. Yasmeh, No. B262043

 

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