ADA Suit Thrown out

June 11, 2002 ( - The owners of a suburban Philadelphia office building can't be held liable under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because the office with no elevator was not handicapped accessible, a federal judge ruled.

US District Judge William Yohn Jr. of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania threw out a lawsuit filed by W.G. Nichols, Inc. Nichols claimed it was forced to move from the building in West Chester, Pa., and couldn’t find sublet tenants to take over the space because it wasn’t ADA compliant, according to a Legal Intelligencer report.

Yohn also threw out ADA claims by two disabled Nichols employees who charged that they were being forced to work on the second floor in a building with no elevator. Yohn said the workers’ couldn’t claim they were being harmed because the company moved to a ground-floor office.

Case Background

In 1997, Nichols agreed to lease a significant portion of the building, owned by Joseph and Michele Ferguson, including the entire second floor, and 1,400 square feet of a garage bay.

The lease ran to August 2002, but provided Nichols with the right to terminate at the end of the third year if it gave 12 months notice and either paid a $65,000 “buyout” or found a new tenant to sublet the space. In 1999, Nichols informed Ferguson of its intention to vacate the premises.

In addition to the claims under the ADA and the corresponding Pennsylvania Physically Handicapped Act, Nichols alleged that the defendants also breached the lease.

Nichols claimed it was forced to incur moving expenses and has been paying rent on both spaces because prospective sublet tenants have balked upon learning that the building is not ADA compliant.

Yohn found that Nichols might still have a valid claim against the Fergusons, in the form of a state court breach of contract suit.

The case is In W.G. Nichols Inc. v. Ferguson.