U.S. Dist. Court, D. New Hampshire, Civil No. 11-cv-436-PB, August 31, 2012: Efforts by owner to look into conflict between ADA compliance and property’s historic significance are relevant to owner’s invocation of ADA’s historic significance exception.
This case concerns the allowable scope of discovery by the plaintiffs in a claim under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) that the owner of a commercial property, Jacob S. Ciborowski Family Trust (“Trust”) denied access to persons with physical disabilities. The Trust asserted that they should not be required to answer certain interrogatories put by the plaintiffs because the answers are irrelevant and therefore the information sought is not discoverable. The disputed questions sought all information about the Trust’s inquiries regarding the historic significance of their property and their building project, including whatever efforts were made to comply with the applicable governmental guidelines.
The Trust’s position was that it is not required by the ADA to make any inquiries into their property’s historic significance or compliance with any guidelines, even if the Section § 4.1.7(2)(b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities provides “if the entity undertaking the alterations believes that compliance with the requirements . . . would threaten or destroy the historic significance of the building… the entity should consult with the State Historic Preservation Officer.”
The Court rejected this permissive, rather than mandatory, reading of the ADA, citing Molski v. Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery, LLC, 531 F.3d 1043, 1047-49 (9th Cir. 2008). Accordingly, the Court found the questions posed by the plaintiffs as relevant and ordered the Trust to answer them.