Landis v. Wash. State Major League Baseball Stadium Pub. Facilities Dist.

Decision Date19 August 2019
Docket NumberCASE NO. 2:18-cv-01512-BJR
Citation403 F.Supp.3d 907
Parties Clark LANDIS, Robert Barker, Grady Thompson, and Kayla Brown, Plaintiffs, v. WASHINGTON STATE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL STADIUM PUBLIC FACILITIES DISTRICT, Baseball of Seattle, Inc., a Washington Corporation, Mariners Baseball, LLC, a Washington limited liability Company, and the Baseball Club of Seattle, LLLP, a Washington limited liability limited partnership, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Washington

Anne-Marie E. Sargent, Stephen P. Connor, Connor & Sargent PLLC, Conrad Reynoldson, Michael M. Terasaki, Washington Civil and Disability Advocate, Seattle, WA, for Plaintiffs.

Sarah Gohmann Bigelow, Stephen C. Willey, Savitt Bruce & Willey LLP, Seattle, WA, for Defendants.




This matter involves a challenge to the accessibility of T-Mobile Field,1 home of Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners. Plaintiffs Landis, Barker, Thompson, and Brown (collectively "Plaintiffs") are lifelong baseball fans who, because of mobility disabilities, are confined to wheelchairs. They bring the current action seeking (1) declaratory relief that T-Mobile Field does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. , and its subsequently promulgated regulations and standards, and (2) injunctive relief ordering that T-Mobile Field be brought into compliance. Their grievances include a list of noncompliant elements, from insufficient sightline to the playing field to wheelchair spaces that do not comply with depth requirements, all of which will be outlined below.

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 19. Defendants Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, Baseball of Seattle, Inc., Mariners Baseball, LLC, and The Baseball Club of Seattle, LLLP (collectively "Defendants"), all of which own or operate the stadium in some capacity, oppose the motion.2 Dkt. No. 21. Having reviewed the motion, the oppositions thereto, the record of the case, and the relevant legal authorities, the Court will grant the motion as to some of Plaintiffs' grievances but deny as to others. The reasoning for the Court's decision follows.

A. The Parties

As mentioned previously, Plaintiffs are all baseball fans who visit T-Mobile Field regularly to watch their favorite team take the field. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 3.1–3.4. Because of mobility disabilities, all are confined to wheelchairs. Id. In the course of enjoying a day of America's favorite pastime, however, all have encountered various obstacles specific to wheelchair users. See, e.g. , id. at ¶¶ 4.15–4.18.

Defendants comprise four separate entities. Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District ("PFD") is a Washington state municipal corporation, created by the Washington State Legislature and the King County Council, that owns T-Mobile Field. Dkt. No. 21 at 7. PFD, in turn, leases the Field to the other privately-owned entities, Baseball of Seattle, Inc., Mariners Baseball, LLC, and The Baseball Club of Seattle, LLLP (collectively "the Mariners"), who manage operations and maintenance of T-Mobile Field. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 3.5, 3.6, 5.20; Dkt. No. 19 at 6; Dkt. No. 21 at 7, 7 n.5 (stating that under the current lease between PFD and the Mariners, "the Mariners are responsible for all ongoing operation, management, and maintenance of the Stadium").

B. T-Mobile Field

Construction of T-Mobile Field began on March 8, 1997, with legendary Mariner Ken Griffey, Jr. helping to break first dirt. See Seattle Mariners, T-Mobile Park History , (last visited Aug. 8, 2019).3 But, as Defendants point out, planning for the Field's design dates back to 1996. Dkt. No. 21 at 7.

T-Mobile Field boasts a retractable roof and is also composed of four separate seating tiers, which are "vertically-stacked." Id. Closest to the field is the 100 Level and, extending upward, are the 200 or "Club" Level, the Suite Level, and the 300 Level. Id. ; see also Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 4.9. The tiers are then divided horizontally into sections.

Each level is connected to a concourse that contains concessions and which guests use to access their seats. In the 100, 200 and Suite Levels, the concourse is located at the rear of each section. Dkt. No. 21 at 8. In the 300 Level, guests access their seats from the concourse through passages located in the middle of the sections. Id. At field-level, the 100 Level also includes the "Diamond Club," which is a premium seating location directly behind home plate. Id. at 9 n.7. Guests access the Diamond Club through four tunnels from the 100 Level concourse. Id. at 8. These tunnels are the only points of access to seating on the 100 Level, apart from the access provided directly from the concourse. Id. A diagram of the Field, provided by Defendants, is appended as Exhibit A.

Addressing T-Mobile Field's architecture, the structure itself is actually composed of eight separate building segments made largely of concrete. Dkt. No. 19 at 14–15; Dkt. No. 21 at 11, 25. These segments are connected by architectural assemblies called "expansion joints" designed to allow the structure to safely expand and contract with changes in temperature. Expansion joints are common in large stadiums and, as with T-Mobile Field, are usually covered with protective covers.

Wheelchair accessible seating is provided throughout T-Mobile Field. On the 100, 200, and Suite Levels, ADA-compliant seating is located adjacent to the concourses. Dkt. No. 21 at 8. In the 300 Level, compliant seating is located in the middle of each section, where the passages provide access from the concourse. Id. Field-level accessible seating is located in Section 35, as only two of the four tunnels providing access to the Diamond Club are ADA-accessible. Id. at 8, 9 n.7. The Section 35 seating is the only field-level wheelchair accessible seating available. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 4.19. Accessible seating is labeled on the diagram provided in Exhibit A.

C. Plaintiffs' List of Grievances

Plaintiffs' complaint and motion for summary judgment provide a long list of alleged noncompliant elements. See Dkt. No. 1 at 1.5; Dkt. No. 19 at 20–22. This list is also dynamic, as discussed below, because the Mariners have conducted some remedial measures since the initiation of the instant action. See infra at 913–14. As best the Court can ascertain, the following is a list of Plaintiffs' outstanding grievances:

Seating Dimensions - Plaintiffs claim that the accessible seating in the 300 Level fails to meet the minimum depth requirements set by the ADA. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 4.33–4.38; Dkt. No. 19 at 6–7. Because the seat depth is insufficient, Plaintiffs claim their wheelchairs "unacceptably spill into the accessible route behind the chairs" causing other spectators to bump into Plaintiffs while the they attempt to pass behind the seats. Dkt. No. 19 at 6.
Edgar's Cantina Elevator/Lift - Plaintiffs complain about the elevator or lift leading to Edgar's Cantina,4 which is "a bar and restaurant along the outfield at the playing field level," Dkt. No. 19 at 16, is not ADA-compliant. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 4.39–4.42; Dkt. No. 19 at 18. The Court is unclear as Plaintiffs' exact concern with the elevator/lift. In Plaintiffs' complaint they claim the lift is noncompliant because it requires a key to operate and is not automatic. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 4.40–4.41. While, in their motion for summary judgment, the complaint appears to be that it is too dangerous because there is a vertical gap which may cause wheelchair users to flip over backwards while attempting to mount the lift. Dkt. No. 19 at 18.
Bullpen and Dugout Access - Plaintiffs allege that during stadium tours or when the Field is open for public events, the Mariners allow guests to tour the bullpen and dugout. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 4.59–4.62; Dkt. No. 19 at 19. According to Plaintiffs, these areas are only accessible by stairs preventing Plaintiffs from visiting the areas.
Gaps, Cracks, and Expansion Joints - Plaintiffs allege that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of bumps, cracks, slopes, and changes in level along paths of travel and walking surfaces around the stadium that present hazards for wheelchair users. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 4.54–4.56; Dkt. No. 19 at 13–15. Some of these obstacles result from maintenance issues where adjacent sections of concrete or brick meet or from expansion joint covers with excessive rises in elevation. Dkt. No. 19 at 14–15. These excessive cracks cause wheelchair users to become stuck or excessively jostled while attempting to traverse causing "pedestrians to crash into wheelchairs from the rear, spilling food or drinks on themselves" or "nearly fall[ing] to the ground due to the unexpected bump." Id. at 15.
Eating and Drinking Surfaces - Plaintiffs claim there are numerous eating and drinking surfaces around the park that do not comply with ADA standards. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 4.53, 4.57; Dkt. No. 19 at 16–17, 19. For example, Plaintiffs list the following: (1) drink rails that are too high on the 200 Level, Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 4.53; and excessively tall dining tables and counters in (2) Edgar's Cantina; (3) "The Pen";5 (4) Edgar's Cantina Home Run Porch;6 and (5) Lookout Landing,7 Dkt. No. 19 at 17.
Concession Counters - In addition to noncompliant eating and drinking surfaces, Plaintiffs claim that several of the sales counters at concession stands around T-Mobile Field are also noncompliant. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 4.43–4.46; Dkt. No. 19 at 16. For example, Plaintiffs list the following: counters in The Pen, including (1) Jack Daniels Bar; (2) Silver Bullet Bar, Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 4.45; (3) most of the "Shortstop Beer" stands; (4) the "Hop Box" beer stand; and (5) the bar at Edgar's Cantina, Dkt. No. 19 at 16.

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