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Hearing-impaired man sues hotel and coaching company
January 15, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

A hearing-impaired San Mateo County Realtor who claims he was offered smoking detectors in place of assistive listening devices for a success seminar at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City is suing for violations of his rights.

In Todd Rich’s suit filed Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court, his attorney seeks damages from hotel umbrella company Intercontinental Hotels of San Francisco and Success Strategies Institute, Inc. which held the seminar. Rich is seeking no less than $30,000 compensation along with any other punitive damages and suits costs awarded.

Both the venue and event provider are equally liable, said attorney Charles Grasso.

On Sept. 11, 2013, Rich, a real estate agent with 90 decibel hearing loss in both ears, attended the Game Changer event which was held by Tom Ferry-YourCoach, the business name of the institute, at the Crowne Plaza in Foster City. Several times before the event, Rich emphasized his need of an assistive listening device, the suit stated.

Although Rich uses hearing aids for everyday purposes, he requires hearing devices when attending events like that at a hotel.

The day of the seminar, Rich again asked for listening accommodations and was first told by a seminar liaison they were not available and was then put in contact with a hotel staff member who also could not locate one, according to the suit.

The staff informed Rich they were getting the equipment from a sister hotel and, about halfway through the event, two “luggage-style boxes” arrived. The staff member asked Rich if he knew how to operate the equipment inside which turned out to be “merely smoke alarms and other miscellaneous items, all of which were completely unrelated to the required assistive listening accommodations,” the suit stated.

Rich left the event without having fully heard or participated and was “humiliated, embarrassed and suffered emotional distress” from the situation, Grasso said.

Grasso said the fact the hotel tried getting the equipment from a different property shows that it should be pretty common as a way to accommodate the disabled.

“It’s not like he was asking for a lot. Not like a special room or anything like that,” Grasso said.

The suit claims the seminar and hotel group violated the civil rights act and the California Disabled Persons Act, committed breach of contract and performed unfair business practices.

Success Strategies Institute did not return an inquiry for comment. Crowne Plaza staff were unable to provide an immediate response.

A case management conference will be held April 11.


(650) 344-5200 ext. 102



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