UPDATED: Wheelchair-Bound Fan Sues Angels and Anaheim for Discrimination

UPDATED: Wheelchair-Bound Fan Sues Angels and Anaheim for Discrimination

Originally posted 2:45, June 15. Updated 4:59 p.m. with non-comment comments from the city and the Angels. See bottom of post.

J. Paul Charlebois says that he wanted to watch a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game from the Anaheim stadium's club level, which is the swanky tier with box seats and waiter service. But the wheelchair-bound baseball fan says that when he asked for wheelchair accessible seating, he was told there were only two such seats on the entire level--and they were already taken.

So he's suing.

According to the law office that's representing him, the only solution that Angels employees had for Charlebois was to offer to carry him to and from a general-admission seat. 

One of two seats for wheel-chair users on the stadium's club level, according to the plaintiff's lawyer.
One of two seats for wheel-chair users on the stadium's club level, according to the plaintiff's lawyer.
Courtesy V. James De Simone
​The class-action suit, filed in the US District Court (Central District of California, Southern Division) today, alleges violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California's Business & Professions Code. Both Angels Baseball LP and the City of Anaheim, which sunk lots of money into a renovation of the stadium, are named as defendants. It seeks relief in the form of more wheelchair accommodation in the most lux region of the stadium.

"It seem amazing to me that in a whole section of a baseball stadium, there would only be two wheelchair accessible seats," says Charlebois' lawyer, V. James De Simone.

Update 4:59: A spokesperson for the city of Anaheim said that they hadn't yet received copy of the suit. Tim Mead, VP of Communications from the Angels, said he hasn't seen the complaint either. "We work very tirelessly to take care of all the diverse needs of our fans, all fans," he said. "This ballpark and certainly our history shows that."

Here's the press release from the firm:

Today, J. Paul Charlebois, a baseball fan who is confined to a wheelchair, filed a Class Action Lawsuit in the United States District Court of the Central District of California against Angels Baseball LP and the City of Anaheim. Mr. Charlebois alleges that the Stadium fails to provide basic accommodations to disabled persons in its premier Club Level, the only section that includes amenities such as in-seat waiter and waitress food and beverage services. Remarkably, in the Club Level consisting of thousands of seats and luxury boxes, there are only two wheelchair accessible seats on the entire level.

In July 2009, when Mr. Charlebois attempted to access his seat in the Club Level section, he was informed that there were no available wheelchair accessible seats in the entire section, as the only two seats were already taken. The Angels employee's only solution was that Mr. Charlebois, a grown man, could be carried to and from a general admission seat. Defendants have refused to rectify this situation and instead continue to relocate those to inferior sections who chose not to be carried.

The lawsuit, Case No. CV10853-AG(ANX), alleges that Angels Baseball and the City of Anaheim, who invested at least $30 million in renovating the Stadium in 1998-1999, fail to provide adequate wheelchair accessible seating on the Club Level, discriminate against individuals on the basis of their disability, fail to comply with facilities requirements contingent upon receiving state funding, and maintain unfair business practices in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, California Civil Rights laws, and California's Business & Professions Code. The Action seeks certification of a plaintiff class of wheelchair bound baseball fans and an order from the Court to compel Defendants to both provide sufficient wheelchair accessible seating and to better train its staff.

The lawsuit states, "By bringing this action for injunctive and declaratory relief, Plaintiff seeks justice for himself and other wheel chair bound patrons of Angels Stadium by requiring Angeles Baseball and the City of Anaheim to comply with federal and California law requiring equal access for individuals with disabilities."

V. James DeSimone of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP, the attorneys representing Mr. Charlebois stated: "It is outrageous that Angels Stadium, which underwent a costly renovation in 1999, deliberately ignored its obligation to wheelchair bound patrons by limiting them to a quota of two accessible seats in the only area of the Stadium that provides waiter and waitress services."


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