On July 28, 2003, disabled athletes of the Paralympic Games and a marketing company sued the U.S. Olympic Committee in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Judge John L. Kane, claiming that the USOC had a policy of giving grants, tuition assistance, and health insurance benefits only to Olympic and Pan American Games athletes but not to paralympic athletes. The USOC also allegedly denied paralympic athletes access to training facilities and did not give them cash rewards for winning medals, like olympic athletes. The plaintiffs claimed these practices violate Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794.
Although the Court never specifically ordered consolidation, on June 14, 2006, an order regarding motions for summary judgment consolidated the Hollonbeck Case with Shepherd v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
also filed in the District of Colorado under Judge Kane. The complaint was filed on October 26, 1999.
The individual plaintiffs were all athletes with disabilities who competed in the Paralympic Games, an international competition similar to the Olympic Games. The marketing company was a Georgia Corporation owned and managed by one of the plaintiffs. It was founded for the purpose of obtaining sponsors for the Paralympics.
The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on October 22, 2003 adding claims for breach of contract and promissory estoppel regarding a contract between the marketing company and USOC.
The plaintiffs sought: a declaratory judgment that the defendants' actions violated the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and constituted a breach of contract; an injunction requiring the defendants to provide equal access to services and benefits to paralympic athletes; compensatory and other damages under state law and the Rehabilitation Act; and attorneys' fees and costs.
On November 16, 2006, the District Court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss Counts I and II. Hollonbeck v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
464 F. Supp. 2d 1072 (D. Colo. 2006). The Court found many parts of the claims problematic; that the training facilities were not really "public accommodations" because they were limited to athletes preselected by the USOC; that the ASA separated the Olympics and Paralympics programs with their own governing bodies, thus plaintiffs had not been "excluded;" and that the plaintiffs' complaint asked for equal
rather than equivalent accommodations, which is not required by the ADA. The docket indicates that on January 10, 2007, the clerk entered final judgment on Counts I and II against the plaintiffs.
On July 12, 2007, the District Court dismissed the plaintiffs' remaining claims regarding the marketing contract and entered final judgment for the defendants.
The United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, consolidated the Shepherd and Hollonbeck cases for appeal. All plaintiffs appealed the District Court's grant of the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims. The Court of Appeals upheld the District Court's dismissal, finding that although the USOC's policy resulted in disparate impact on disabled athletes, this did not state a claim under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. Judge Holloway dissented and would have reversed the District Court. Hollonbeck v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
513 F.3d 1191 (10th Cir. 2008).
On October 6, 2008, the Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs' petition for a writ of certiorari. Hollonbeck v. U.S. Olympic Committee,
129 S. Ct. 114 (2008). The last entry on the docket, on October 14, 2008, notes the Supreme Court's order.Eric Weiler - 07/03/2010