Legal Report, November 2019
General Counsel, Keith Davis
1. Classy Cycles, Inc. v. Panama City Beach (“Classy Cycles II”), Case No. 1D18-3095 (1st DCA 2019). Motorized scooter regulation, preemption.
As a preface to this case, Panama City Beach (“City”) passed ordinances in 2015 that 1) required drivers of rented scooters to wear vests, and 2) required businesses renting scooters to the public to carry insurance on the scooters. These ordinances were ultimately invalidated by the First District Court of Appeals (“First DCA”), who held that they were preempted by state law. See Classy Cycles, Inc. v. Bay County (“Classy Cycles I”), 201 So. 3d 779 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).
In 2017, the City enacted two new ordinances relating to the rental of motorized scooters, again in hopes to address the growing number of “inexperienced” and “dangerous” scooter drivers within its jurisdiction. The first ordinance prohibited the overnight rental of scooters, while the second ordinance established a total prohibition on the rental of scooters in the City, effective on September 8, 2020. The two ordinances were challenged by Classy Cycles, Inc. (“Plaintiff”), who argued that the ordinances were invalid because: 1) they banned an activity that was not a per se nuisance and 2) they were preempted by existing statutory and case law.
The circuit court found for the City on both arguments, and the First DCA affirmed the circuit court’s ruling on appeal. At the outset, the First DCA found that Plaintiff’s argument that the City was unauthorized to prohibit the rental of motorized scooters because motorized scooters are not a "per se nuisance," was “outdated” and no longer applicable as a legal test. The new and current test to determine whether a municipality can prohibit a certain activity is simply the “rational basis test,” in which the court simply considers “whether the [City’s] actions were reasonably related to accomplishing its goal.”
The First DCA also rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the City’s ordinances restricting or prohibiting motorized scooter rentals were preempted by existing statutory and case law. This argument primarily centered around the state’s Traffic Code at Chapter 316, F.S. While Chapter 316 generally precludes municipalities from enacting ordinances that conflict with state traffic laws, the First DCA focused on § 316.008, which lists specific means in which localities can regulate “streets and highways under their jurisdiction.” The First DCA found that the ordinances at issue here fell within the regulatory purview of § 316.008, F.S. and did not “address the actual operation of motor vehicles or disturb the uniformity of Florida's traffic laws.”
There was a separate opinion from Judge Makar, concurring in part and dissenting in part. This opinion agreed that the City’s ordinances relating to motorized scooter rentals were subject to rational basis review, but concluded that the ordinances were preempted by Florida’s Traffic Code at Chapter 316, F.S. Judge Makar argued that § 316.008, F.S. gives Florida local governments an enumerated list “powers” for controlling the flow or movement of traffic within its jurisdiction, and none of these listed powers suggest that a total ban on scooter rentals would be permitted “as a means of traffic control.”
Overall, the Classy Cycles II case is a re-affirmation of the Home Rule powers enjoyed by Florida municipalities, and hints that municipal ordinances restricting or prohibiting motorized scooters will not be preempted by state traffic law as long as they fit within the regulatory authority given to localities under § 316.008, F.S. As illustrated by Judge Makar’s opinion; however, there is a genuine argument about whether a total ban on scooter rentals actually fits within local governments’ regulatory authority under § 316.008, F.S. or not.
2. Quasha v. City of Palm Beach Gardens, Case No. 19-80825-CIV-MIDDLEBROOKS (S.D. Fla. 2019). ADA compliance, reasonable accommodations.
Jennifer Quasha (“Plaintiff”), on behalf of her son, contacted the Palm Beach Gardens Youth Athletic Association (“Association”) to request accommodations as a result of Plaintiff’s son having a peanut allergy. Plaintiff’s son had begun playing T-Ball at a field in Gardens Park in fall 2018. After coming to an agreement with the Association for the fall season, which included the dugouts being swept and a limitation on when peanuts would be sold, the Association and the City of Palm Beach Gardens (“City”) decided not to offer the same accommodations for the spring season. The City offered instead to schedule all of Plaintiff’s son’s games at North Palm Beach Fields, where no peanuts were sold. Plaintiff refused those accommodations and filed suit against the City for: 1) violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); and 2) violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The City filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that a peanut allergy does not qualify as a disability under the ADA. (citing J.D. by Doherty v. Colonial Williamsburg Found., 925 F.3d 663, 670 (4th Cir. 2019); Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, 1041 (9th Cir. 2003)).
The district court denied the City’s motion to dismiss, finding that the ADA includes as a qualifying disability any “impairment that is episodic or in remission . . . if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.” See 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12102(4)(D) (emphasis added). The Court held that sufficient support was given to show that Plaintiff’s episodic impairment, his peanut allergy, would impair a major life activity in “restricting his airways and making [it] difficult to breath.” The U.S. District Court hinted that gluten sensitivity and diabetes are examples of other disabilities entitled to accommodations under the ADA. (citing J.D. by Doherty v. Colonial Williamsburg Found., 925 F.3d 663, 670 (4th Cir. 2019); Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, 1041 (9th Cir. 2003)). As a case of first impression, this holding further expands the potential list of disabilities under the ADA requiring reasonable accommodation – this time in the context of municipal recreational facilities. While the court holds that a peanut allergy is a disability under the ADA, this holding does not expressly address the issue of whether the City’s fall or spring accommodations were in fact reasonable.