More MS news articles for December 2000

Garth In a Not-So Pretty Lawsuit

Activist says country singer discriminates against diabled at his concerts, preferring "pretty women" to wheelchair-bound fans

Updated 11:30 AM ET December 18, 2000
by Josh Grossberg

According to a lawsuit filed by wheelchair-bound disabled activist Joanne Lawrence, the country hitmaker prefers to reserve the choicest front-row seats at his concerts for "pretty women," thereby denying handicapped fans from getting within spitting distance of Brooks.

Lawrence, who heads a group called Disabled Americans Have Rights, Too, sued Brooks, the city of Seattle and the city's Key Arena after she attended a Brooks show in 1998 and was forced to sit farther back and couldn't see the stage when those in front of her stood up--which, she claims, is a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and state civil rights laws.

During a hearing in King County Superior Court Friday, her attorney, John Sheridan, said Lawrence tried to buy tickets close to the stage, but was instead consigned to "the concert equivalent of the back of the bus," when the ticketseller told her the first two rows were already filled with fans preselected by the entertainer.

"Garth Brooks takes away those two rows and gives them away to pretty women," Sheridan told Judge Kathleen Leonard, according to the Seattle Times.

While the country crooner hasn't personally responded to the allegations, his attorney, Joseph P. Hampton, argued Brooks should not be held liable for discrimination because being a native Tennessean, he can't be expected to know the "arcane minutiae" that goes on behind the scenes at a Seattle concert venue, nor can he help the arena's seating policy.

Judge Leonard, meanwhile, ruled the suit could go to trial, however, she limited Brooks liability, saying she still needs to determine how much input Brooks' had into seating arrangements at the arena as well as decide whether he should be held responsible for any discrimination.

The case goes to trial next May.

This is the second time Lawrence has sued over a Brooks concert. In 1993, she filed a similar suit against the Tacoma Dome and Ticketmaster. In an out-of-court settlement, she was able to secure seating improvements for disabled people.

Brooks, who is supposedly retiring from touring (again), will probably never play the Key Arena again, his attorney says.