19th January 2018
On January 5, 2017, Judge Susan van Keulen granted a class of mobility-disabled persons, suing the San Francisco 49ers and the city of Santa Clara, request for information about people who purchased accessible seating tickets at Levi’s Stadium. The suit originally began in December 2016 when Abdul Nevarez sued the San Francisco 49ers and the city of Santa Clara, owners of Levi’s Stadium, for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Nevarez, who requires the use of a wheelchair for mobility, attended four games at Levi’s Stadium between 2014 and 2016. On each occasion, he faced alleged barriers in terms of accessing the stadium including difficulty locating elevators, accessing the stadium from the parking lots, navigating security checkpoints, accessing the box office ticket window, purchasing tickets in advance, and obtaining sufficient companion seating.
The current issue arose after the class served an interrogatory requesting that the 49ers “identify by name, address, telephone number, and email address all persons who purchased accessible seating tickets from the defendants for any event held at Levi’s Stadium on or after July 17, 2014.” The 49ers refused to comply, citing that disclosing the requested contact information would simultaneously reveal that the customer either is a mobility-disabled person or purchased tickets on behalf of such individuals. According to the 49ers, such a disclosure would result in an invasion of privacy.
After negotiations, the parties agreed the notices could be sent to individuals; however, the parties disagreed on how the notices should be sent. The class proposed an “opt-out” notice, which would allow individuals to refuse to have their contact information disclosed, should the person be concerned about revealing that they are a mobility-disabled person. On the other hand, the 49ers proposed an “opt-in” notice, which would not allow persons to be contacted without first providing their affirmative consent. Judge Keulen disagreed with the 49ers: “The customers here purchased tickets to sit in an area visible to the public that makes their mobility issues readily apparent. Accessible seating is clearly marked, and by requesting tickets for such seating, these individuals have manifested their desire to sit in a public space that will identify them as persons with disabilities.” Judge Keulen said that the “opt-out” notice was preferable because it “will allow individuals to refuse to have their contact information disclosed, should they be concerned about revealing [their] mobile disability.”