Denver based Chipotle Mexican Grill lost portions of its appeal recently,
affirming in part and denying in part the verdict in a lawsuit by a disabled man.
The Plaintiff, Mauizio Antoninetti, is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair.
Anoninetti visited two different California Chipotle restaurants on several
occasions as both a customer and for purposes of his lawsuit. Anoninetti
sued Chipotle for having counters too high preventing him from seeing
the food preparers as they assembled the food, which is prepared assembly
line style based on a customer’s choices.
Prior to this litigation Chipotle had an unwritten policy which accommodated
wheelchaired customers by showing them and allowing them to sample the
available foods. However, in 2007 as a result of this litigation a formal
written policy was established by Chipotle.
Initially, a federal judge ruled against Antoninetti due to his numerous
lawsuits against dozens of other businesses for access violations, resulting
in cash settlements. However the United States Court of Appeals overturned
a portion of the judgment finding that prior to its written policy, Chipotle
violated the Americans with Disabilities Act for failure to accommodate
a customer’s disability. The court further ruled that Antoninetti’s
prior litigation history cannot be used against him.
Although significantly less than Antoninettti sought, he had been awarded
attorney’s fees in the amount of $136,537.83 and damages of $5,000.
These amounts were vacated by the Court of Appeals and remanded back to
the district court for reconsideration.
The conclusion? The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated
in part and remanded — sort of like when you order a little of this
and a little of that when assembling your own Chipotle burrito.