The Good, the Bad and the Greedy

July 7, 2008 - 8:21 PM

(Editor's Note: The following is the first of 100 stories regarding government regulation from the book Shattered Dreams, written by the National Center for Public Policy Research. CNSNews.com will publish an additional story each day.)

When actor Clint Eastwood converted a 19 th century dairy into the 32-room Mission Ranch Inn in Carmel, California, he made every effort to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But, as Eastwood noted, "Because it is an old place, we had certain obligations to the heritage of the antique value, not just the ADA."Eastwood was sued in 1997 by Dianne zum Brunnen. Zum Brunnen, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, claimed the hotel did not provide adequate wheelchair access.
When her lawyers pressed Eastwood to accept a $500,000 settlement, he rejected what he perceived to be a shakedown and what he saw as a use of the ADA as an instrument of blackmail. The actor said, "If you are wrong, by all means settle. But if you are right, you've got to stand firm."

It took a U.S. District Court jury only four hours to decide that zum Brunnen had not been harmed by the lack of amenities at the Mission Ranch Inn, and awarded her no damages. Eastwood was cited for not posting better signs for locating restrooms for the disabled and for not installing a wheelchair ramp to the hotel office.

After the verdict, Eastwood testified before the Congress in favor of U.S. Representative Mark Foley's (R-FL) "ADA Notification Act." Foley's bill would require aggrieved parties to inform businesses in writing about perceived violations of the ADA and give them 90 days to fix any problems before a lawsuit could be filed against the business.

Sources: Pacific Research Institute, E! Online, Ragged Edge online magazine

Copyright 2003, National Center for Public Policy Research