Plaintiff, seeking declarative and injunctive relief, brought a putative class action alleging that the city and county of San Francisco failed to comply with certain requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, specifically alleging that many of San Francisco’s public rights-of-way, pools, libraries, parks, and recreation facilities were not readily accessible to and usable by mobility-impaired persons.
Reversing in part the decision of the District Court for the Northern District of California, the Ninth Circuit first held that the named plaintiff had established standing based on an injury in fact – she had encountered several barriers to access that deterred her from returning to the public facilities she visited. The court then examined the question whether the certified class had standing to challenge the facilities that plaintiff herself did not personally visit. Adopting the “class certification approach” to this question, the circuit court referenced its 2015 ruling in Melendres, which held that “once the named plaintiff demonstrates her individual standing to bring a claim, the standing inquiry is concluded, and the court proceeds to consider whether the Rule 23(a) prerequisites for class certification have been met.”
As such, it did not matter that plaintiff had not visited all the facilities in the class definition. The court also noted that the class definition encompassed “[a]ll persons with mobility disabilities who are allegedly being denied access . . . due to disability access barriers to . . . parks, libraries, swimming pools, and curb ramps, sidewalks, crosswalks, and any other outdoor designated pedestrian walkways in the City and County of San Francisco” – i.e. it did not limit the court to consideration of only the facilities plaintiff personally visited. On this basis, the court found that the class had standing to bring its claims as defined. Given the importance of standing issues in the class action context, we anticipate defendant may seek Supreme Court review.
Kirola v. City & County of San Francisco, No. 14-17521 (9th Cir. June 22, 2017).