Staron v. McDonald's Corporation
Three children with asthma and a woman with lupus sued the McDonald’s and Burger King fast-food chains for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each plaintiff was unable to enter a branch of the two restaurant chains without experiencing breathing problems due to the tobacco smoke. The plaintiffs asked the restaurant chains to prohibit smoking. The district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims. Even though the companies were subject to the ADA and the plaintiffs were disabled under the law, the court did not think that a smoking ban constituted a “reasonable modification” under the ADA. In this decision, the appeals court disagreed with the lower court and ruled that the plaintiffs’ case should be able to move forward. The court said that determining whether a smoking ban is a reasonable modification is a factual question, which the plaintiffs should be able to attempt to prove. After the case was filed, McDonald’s announced a smoking ban in its corporate owned-and-operated restaurants (but not franchises). The appeals court noted that this voluntary ban suggested that a total smoking ban may impose little or no cost to the fast food companies.