ADA lawsuit prepped for trial

January 16, 2014 

— The pre-trial odyssey ends here, U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann said about a Centre County Americans with Disabilities Act civil case.

The next step will be a non-jury trial in the suit filed three years ago by Will McConnell, a wheelchair-bound Clearfield resident who operates as a “tester” to check on compliance of ADA regulations in places open to the public.

His complaint filed in May 2011 against owner Canadian Pacific Realty Co.’s Hills Plaza on South Atherton Street listed numerous access problems, most of which have since been resolved.

The four that will be the subject of the trial are a sloped sidewalk in front of four businesses, including the state Wine and Spirits store, the slope of a ramp near the entrance of Weis Markets, a sign near Ollie’s and the slope of a parking space near Kish Bank.

In the opinion issued Thursday, Brann noted that the case “has journeyed far past the noble intent of this (ADA) act, seemingly down the river Styx to the murky underworld of endless ligation.

“A reference to Hades may appear to be perfervid to a reader unfamiliar with the instant action; however, even a cursory reading of the parties’ filings in this case illustrates the tempestuous heat emanating from the contentiousness of this litigation,” he wrote.

The opinion details the delays and disagreements since the complaint was filed.

“From the outset, this matter was acrimonious,” the judge wrote, citing McConnell’s overly broad demand for inspection as an example.

Because the shopping center owner had completed many of the requested repairs, both parties early last year filed motions for summary judgment. Brann denied McConnell’s motion and granted Canadian Pacific’s in part.

He also struck the final re-inspection report from a McConnell expert because the defense had not received it.

McConnell claimed the oversight was harmless, but Brann disagreed, “given the tortured history” and lack of collegiality exhibited by the parties in this case.

“Complying with the ADA should not turn into the 12 labors of Hercules,” he wrote.

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