The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd, United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER
On September 24, 1998, plaintiffs Susan Meineker ("Meineker")*fn1 and
Sybil McPherson ("McPherson") (collectively "plaintiffs") commenced the
instant action against defendant Hoyts Cinemas Corporation ("Hoyts")
pursuant to Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act,
42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA"). Plaintiffs filed an amended
complaint on February 12, 1999, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and 42 U.S.C. § 12182, and attorneys'
fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12205.
Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all claims against it.
Plaintiffs oppose and cross-move for summary judgment. Defendant opposes
the cross-motion. Oral argument was heard on March 22, 2002, in Albany,
New York. Decision was reserved.
In 1997, Hoyts opened its new cinema at Crossgates Mall in Albany, New
York (the "Crossgates theater"). The Crossgates theater consists of a
complex of eighteen movie theaters on two levels. All eighteen theaters
consist of a combination of seating on a flat floor below the screen, and
"stadium-style" seating. Stadium-style seating consists of individual
rows of seats placed on graduated tiers or steps. The stadium-style
seating occupies, on average, approximately 70% of the available seating
in the Crossgates theaters. In fourteen of the eighteen Crossgates
theaters, where seating capacity is less than 300, there is no wheelchair
seating in the tiered, stadium-style sections.
In the four theaters where seating capacity is greater than 300,
wheelchair seating is located in several locations both on the flat floor
and at the back of the stadium-style seats. For safety reasons,
Crossgates has installed a railing to protect wheelchair patrons from the
steep drop-off in front of the wheelchair seating at the rear of these
theaters.*fn2 Each wheelchair position is adjoined by a companion seat
in every theater. Patrons pay the same ticket price whether they sit in
the stadium seating or in the floor seating.
At the time the Crossgates theaters were constructed, the floor seating
for wheelchair patrons was located in the most undesirable part of the
theaters. It was situated directly beneath the screen at the very front
of the theaters. There was no seating for the general public located in
front of the wheelchair seating. Subsequent to the commencement of this
litigation, the wheelchair seating was renovated between November 2000
and March 2001. (Gaudet Aff. ¶ 10.) The wheelchair seating was
relocated to the rear of the floor section behind several rows of general
public seating, and as close to the center of the theater as possible.
Plaintiffs Susan Meineker and Sybil McPherson are disabled persons who
ambulate by means of a wheelchair. Each patronized Hoyts Crossgates
theater in late 1997, and each was required to sit in wheelchair seating
which, at that time, was located directly under the screen at the very
front of the theater. These seating locations were undesirable to
plaintiffs. They had difficulty viewing the screen, and they suffered
discomfort during the movies because they were forced to shift their
bodies in their wheelchairs in order to crane their heads upward to view
the movie. They commenced this action in 1998, alleging that the
wheelchair seating configuration at the Crossgates theaters violates
Title III of the ADA.
A moving party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as
a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The ultimate inquiry is whether a
reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party based on the evidence
presented, the legitimate inferences that could be drawn from that
evidence in favor of the nonmoving party, and the applicable burden of
proof. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). In
determining a motion for summary judgment, all inferences to be drawn
from the facts contained in the exhibits and depositions "must be viewed
light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." United
States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962); Hawkins v. Steingut,
829 F.2d 317, 319 (2d Cir. 1987). Nevertheless, "the litigant opposing