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PASCUITI v. NEW YORK YANKEES

December 8, 1999

JAMES PASCUITI, JOSEPH REILLY, WALTER RYNAKSO, AND THERESA MURPHY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NEW YORK YANKEES, DEFENDANT. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-INTERVENOR, V. NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION, AND NEW YORK YANKEES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scheindlin, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs James Pascuiti, Joseph Reilly, Walter Rynasko, and Theresa Murphy and plaintiff-intervenor United States of America (collectively the "plaintiffs") have filed suit against New York City and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (the "City"), as well as the New York Yankees (the "Yankees"), alleging that the City and the Yankees have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., New York State Executive Law § 296(2), and New York Human Rights Law § 8-107(4) by failing to make Yankee Stadium (the "Stadium") accessible to individuals with disabilities. On December 2, 1999, this Court made oral rulings in response to several issues raised by the parties. Those rulings are withdrawn and replaced by this amended opinion, which clarifies those rulings and provides additional guidance to the parties.

I. Issues Relating to Title II

The anti-discrimination provision of Title II of the ADA states:

  Subject to the provisions of this subchapter, no
  qualified individual with a disability shall, by
  reason of such disability, be excluded from
  participation in or be denied the benefits of the
  services, programs, or activities of a public entity,
  or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.

42 U.S.C. § 12132. Title II defines "public entity" to include state and local governments, such as the City. See 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1)(A).*fn1 The regulations implementing Title II explain the responsibilities of public entities in greater detail:

28 C.F.R. § 35.150(a). The regulations contain several limitations, one of which provides that § 35.150(a) does not:

  [r]equire a public entity to take any action that it
  can demonstrate would result in a fundamental
  alteration in the nature of a service, program, or
  activity or in undue financial and administrative
  burdens.

28 C.F.R. § 35.150(a)(3).

a) Burden of proof

Both the plaintiffs and the City agree that the burden of proof scheme laid out in Borkowski v. Valley Central School District, 63 F.3d 131, 137-40 (2d Cir. 1995), applies in this case. Borkowski involved the allocation of the burdens of proving both "reasonable accommodation" and "undue hardship" under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act:

  It is enough for the plaintiff to suggest the
  existence of a plausible accommodation, the costs of
  which, facially, do not clearly exceed its benefits.
  Once the plaintiff has done this, she has made out a
  prima facie showing that a reasonable accommodation
  is available, and the risk of nonpersuasion falls on
  the defendant. At this point the defendant's burden
  of persuading the factfinder that the plaintiff's
  proposed accommodation is unreasonable merges, in
  effect, with its burden of showing, as an affirmative
  defense, that the proposed accommodation would cause
  it to suffer an undue hardship. For in practice
  meeting the burden of nonpersuasion on the
  reasonableness of the accommodation and demonstrating
  that the accommodation imposes an undue hardship
  amount to the same thing.

Id. at 138 (citations omitted). Translating this scheme into the Title II context, plaintiffs must: (1) prove that the Stadium, when viewed in its entirety, is not readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; and (2) suggest a plausible method of making the Stadium readily accessible, the costs of which, facially, do not clearly exceed its benefits. If plaintiffs make out this prima facie case, the City must prove that the ...


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