A federal judge in San Francisco ruled on Jan. 28 that Marriott International Inc. is required under federal and state laws to make accessible golf cars available to disabled golfers. Marriott, the world’s largest golf resort management company, which operates 26 golf courses in the U.S. through its Marriott Golf division, had said it was not obligated to provide accessible (single-rider) golf cars to at its properties.
In granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs and in denying summary judgment to Marriott, Federal Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton, U.S. district judge for the Northern district of California, wrote: "The Court declares that Marriott violated the ADA, and for those courses which Marriott owns and operates in California, the California Disabled Persons Act, and the Unruh Act as well, by failing to provide accessible golf carts as a reasonable accommodation for plaintiffs’ mobility impairments."
The suit was brought by Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit law firm in Berkeley, Calif., which specializes in suits on behalf of persons with disabilities; and Chavez & Gertler, a class action law firm in Mill Valley, Calif. The plaintiffs are California residents Laurence Celano and Richard Thesing and Florida resident Bill Hefferon. The plaintiffs, who have mobility disabilities that require the use of an assistive mobility device to play golf, said Marriott’s policies deterred them from visiting or patronizing its owned and operated golf courses. The plaintiffs do not seek damages.
While ruling that Marriott violated the laws, Hamilton delayed issuing an injunction against the company. Instead the judge instructed both sides to try to reach a settlement that would provide single-rider golf cars at Marriott courses. Judge Hamilton said she will hold another hearing on the case at a later date.