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Woman with disability loses discrimination suit over Pro Bowl seating

A woman with a disability claiming she was discriminated against after she was forced to give up her front row seat at a Pro Bowl game at Aloha Stadium for a wheelchair-accessible seat lost her case today in federal court in Honolulu.

The federal jury in Judge J. Michael Seabright’s courtroom found no liability against the state or the NFL in a 2013 incident where Aloha Stadium staff stopped the woman from getting to her seat and instead provided her with wheelchair-accessible seating, Attorney General Doug Chin said today in a statement.

Deb Ritchie filed her lawsuit in September 2013, saying she had a cervical neurological condition that made it difficult for her to walk. She was using a wheelchair, but could also move with special crutches and shoes, the lawsuit said.

On the day of the game, staff prohibited Ritchie from using a “sitting technique” to climb down the steps and impeded her from descending the steps slowly with her crutches, the suit said.

Ritchie claimed, among other counts, false imprisonment and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Her lawsuit said the previous year she was transported on the field by golf cart to her seat and she requested the same accommodations for the Pro Bowl game in 2013, but was refused.

Chin’s statement said her request was denied for security and safety concerns.

The day of the game, Aloha Stadium staff stopped her from descending 60 steps to her seat because she appeared unsteady, creating a danger to herself and to others in the event of an evacuation, the statement said.

Ritchie watched the game from a wheelchair-accessible row.

“Today’s verdict clears the state and NFL of all liability in this case,” the statement said. “A previous trial in 2015 ended in a mistrial after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.”

Ritchie said tonight that she plans to appeal.


Clarification: Plaintiff Deb Ritchie paid for her front-row seat at the Pro Bowl, but was forced to take a wheelchair accessible seat farther away from the field.

6 responses to “Woman with disability loses discrimination suit over Pro Bowl seating”

  1. saywhatyouthink says:

    Wow, expecting VIP service due to a disability and then suing when you don’t get it. This woman should have stayed home and had a front row seat to her TV. I hope they made her pay for legal fees and court costs for filing such a frivolous claim. Some people – you offer a hand and they take your whole arm.

  2. Bigwill says:

    This lady’s suit was frivolous and had no legal merit. I am glad that for a rare time, “common sense” prevailed to bring the correct justice to this case. I totally agree with “saywhatyouthink”, the State should have counter sued for legal fees. No problem with the disabled getting the assistance they need. She is really losing sight that she could have gotten injured getting to her seat, or in the event of any evacuation assistance could have been delayed or lost. What she is “PO’d” about is those front row nose bleed seats being lost. Common lady, get real. Hope her attorney that took this “Lolo” case took a bath on his fees!

  3. Pauoaguy says:

    OMG!!! Have you seen the areas reserved for wheel chair bound attendees??? The best seats in the house!!!

  4. Hitaxpayer says:

    No ca ching for you.

  5. WizardOfMoa says:

    Let’s hope her action doesn’t affects those with legitimate reasonable request for disabled accommodations.

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