Plaintiff Brenda Pickern v. Defendant Timber Cove Lodge, Lake Tahoe

The disabled plaintiff sued the Tahoe hotel to remove alleged access barriers. The Lodge had been sued before, settled, and were in the process of making ADA upgrades. Despite such, Plaintiff and her attorney engaged in heavy litigation. Corfee, on behalf of the Lodge, filed a motion to dismiss the ADA claim as “moot” because the ADA access was provided. The Federal Eastern District Court for California granted that motion finding that the Lodge provided the access and there were no barriers to remove. The plaintiff re-filed her California Unruh Act claim in the Superior Court of El Dorado. The parties settled the plaintiff’s damage claim but the Lodge refused to pay any attorneys’ fees/costs to her attorney, especially those were incurred in the plaintiff’s failed federal action.

The Superior Court of El Dorado County agreed with the Lodge and denied plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees. The plaintiff appealed to the California Court of Appeals, and argued that she prevailed and was the catalyst “causing” defendant to make disabled access changes, which benefitted the public at large. The Appellate Court disagreed upholding the trial court’s determination that the Lodge had a pre-existing motivation to comply with the ADA pursuant to the prior lawsuit, of which they had informed Plaintiff.