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Hospital escapes ADA damages claim

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//January 18, 2022

Hospital escapes ADA damages claim

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//January 18, 2022//

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Where a patient alleged a hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, by failing to provide adequate handicap shower facilities, his claim was dismissed because he sought damages, and the statutory subsection provides only injunctive relief.


This cause of action arises from an accident that occurred during a hospital stay beginning on April 30, 2019, when Judson Edwards Sr. was admitted to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital following an attempted suicide. On May 3, 2019, plaintiff, an amputee, alleges that he fell while showering and subsequently sustained injuries.

Plaintiff now brings the following claims against Sentara for failure to provide adequate handicap shower facilities: general negligence and violation of Title III of the ADA. Sentara has filed a motion to dismiss.


Plaintiff contends that he is eligible to receive damages for the harm that he sustained as a result of showering in a non-ADA compliant shower under 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a). That statutory subsection establishes a remedial scheme for the enforcement of Title III of the ADA by incorporating remedies available under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In turn, that enforcement provision states that a “person aggrieved” may institute “a civil action for preventive relief, including an application for a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or other order.” By the plain terms of that provision, a private party may obtain only forward-looking relief; damages for past harms are not available.

Notably, several courts of appeals have reached the conclusion that § 12188(a)(1) does not contemplate an award of money damages in suits brought by private parties, like plaintiff in this case. This unbroken line of cases makes manifest that money damages are not an option for private parties suing under Title III of the ADA.

Here, plaintiff openly admits that he is only seeking damages. In fact, even if plaintiff sought injunctive relief, his claim would fail because Sentara already has an ADA compliant shower on the floor where plaintiff resided when the accident occurred. Accordingly, this court concludes plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because there is no private remedy for damages under § 12188 of the ADA. And, because the court has dismissed the ADA claim, it cannot exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the state law negligence claim.

Defendant’s motion to dismiss granted.

Edwards v. Sentara Hospitals, Case No. 2:21-cv-105, Jan. 3, 2022. EDVA at Norfolk (Doumar). VLW 022-3-002. 9 pp.

VLW 022-3-002

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