AG Brnovich Announces Settlement with Phoenix Sports Bar in Service Animal Disability Lawsuit

PHOENIX - The Civil Rights Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has reached a settlement with Obrigis LLC, d/b/a O’Brien’s Sports Bar (O’Brien’s), under the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA), in a disability lawsuit involving the denial of service by a public establishment to a man who utilizes a service animal. On October 25, 2019, the AGO filed a lawsuit alleging that O’Brien’s violated the AzDA when O’Brien’s employees told Bill Larson that his service animal, Whopper, was not allowed in O’Brien’s facility and that he and his trained dog would have to leave the bar. The settlement is subject to court approval.

Larson has a brain injury which causes him to experience transient ischemic attacks (colloquially referred to as “mini-strokes”). His American Bulldog "Whopper" is a service animal, trained to detect the onset of a transient ischemic attack and alert Larson so that he may take steps to ensure his safety and the safety of others.

“Our Civil Rights Division is fighting to make sure Arizonans are treated fairly and not discriminated against," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "We encourage all Arizona business operators and service animal owners to learn more about their responsibilities and their rights under the American and Arizona Disabilities Acts."

The parties have negotiated a consent decree to ensure that similarly situated individuals with disabilities have equal access and opportunity to fully and equally enjoy the Phoenix establishment. O’Brien’s has agreed to:

  • Create and disseminate policies (1) prohibiting discrimination based on disability; (2) modifying policies, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination against individuals with disabilities and their service animals; and (3) prohibiting retaliation;
  • Pay for and participate in robust training for all managers, supervisors, officers, members, and owners on public accommodations obligations under the AzDA and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and
  • Maintain a prominently displayed poster informing the public that service animals are welcome in O’Brien’s establishment, including a reference to the AzDA.

Additionally under the terms of the consent decree, O’Brien’s has agreed to pay monetary damages of $7,500 to Mr. Larson and $2,500 in a civil penalty to the state.

This case is being overseen by Civil Litigation Division Chief Counsel Joe Sciarrotta and Section Chief Rebekah Browder and is being handled by Senior Litigation Counsel Leslie Ross, as well as Assistant Attorneys General Brendan Lenihan, and Angela Schultz.

The mission of the Civil Rights Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is to enforce civil rights laws, increase public awareness of civil rights, provide dispute resolution services, and offer community services throughout the AGO. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in housing, employment, public accommodations, or voting, please contact our office at (602) 542-5263 or submit an intake questionnaire.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, provides this FAQ on service animals and the ADA.

Copy of the consent decree.