ADA Non-discrimination Requirement for “Public Accommodations”

Levorsen v. Octapharma Plasma, Inc., 828 F.3d 1227 (10th Cir. 2016)

Tenth Circuit adopts a definition of “public accommodations” under the ADA that results in a commercial plasma donation center being prohibited from refusing to do business with a person with schizophrenia who seeks to donate plasma.

Background: Brent Levorsen had various psychiatric disorders including borderline schizophrenia. For years, Levorsen donated plasma in exchange for money in an effort to supplement his limited income. In May 2013, he attempted to do so at a Salt Lake City branch of Octapharma Plasma, Inc., but an employee at that location became aware that Levorsen had borderline schizophrenia. The employee informed Levorsen that he was ineligible to donate plasma out of a fear of him lashing out during the donation process, possibly injuring himself or others. Levorsen then obtained a note from his psychiatrists clearing him to donate, but Octapharma maintained its refusal to allow Levorsen to donate. Levorsen then brought suit claiming discrimination under the ADA. The district court granted Octapharma’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim based on a determination that plasma donation centers do not fit the definition of a service establishment under the ADA.

Holding: The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s finding and held that plasma donation centers fit the definition of service establishments under the ADA. The court reasoned that the “ordinary meaning” of service establishment was not tied to the purchase of services from the establishment; rather, an establishment that provides a service, which could include accepting and paying for donations of plasma, is the essence of the term and what the ADA sought to cover. The court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with that determination.

Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 3