PORTLAND (AP) – The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling in favor of an Oakland man who sued Hannaford Bros. when store employees mistaking his disability for intoxication refused to sell him liquor.

David Dudley, 38, of Oakland sued the supermarket after employees at the Hannaford store in Gardiner refused to sell him a four-pack of wine coolers in February 1999.

The employees believed Dudley was intoxicated because he walked with a rambling gait and slurred his speech. They refused to sell him alcohol, citing store policy and state law that banned the sale of alcohol to visibly intoxicated people.

Dudley told the night manager that his symptoms were the result of injuries from a 1993 car crash. The manager refused to reconsider the denial, saying store policy forbade it.

Hannaford’s company policy will change to allow managers to reconsider a store clerk’s decision not to sell liquor to a customer.

Dudley maintained the store’s actions violated his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Maine Human Rights Act. He previously won in U.S. District Court.

Hannaford Bros. appealed the decision, with the Maine Restaurant, the Maine Grocers, the Maine Oil Dealers, and the Maine Merchants associations filing a “friend of the court” brief in support of Hannaford.

On Wednesday the appeals court upheld a decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston by U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal.

The appeals court said the ADA bans establishments like supermarkets from discriminating “against an individual in the full and equal access to goods and services on the basis of a disability.”

“I’m just glad they voted in my favor because I think that was the right thing to do,” Dudley said.

He said he can buy liquor in Oakland where store employees know him, but that he has run into difficulties elsewhere until he explains that he is disabled not intoxicated.

Larry Winger, the attorney representing Hannaford Bros., said the company will comply with the district court order, including drawing a distinction between customers who are disabled and those who are intoxicated.

Winger said Hannaford Bros. is unlikely to appeal the decision. The district court judge awarded Dudley $5,000 in a civil penalty and attorneys’ costs.


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