What started as a trip to the mall, ended up in a lawsuit. David Guzman, a 16-year military veteran was asked to leave La Plaza Mall and the Rio Grande Premium Outlet for using a Segway PT (personal transporter) in April.
On Monday at a press conference, The South Texas Civil Rights Project (STCRP) announced a suit against Simon Property Group Inc. and Chelsea Property Group Inc. on behalf of Guzman.
Guzman is currently the first veteran in South Texas to be given a Segway by the Segs4Vets program to use as a new form of handicap transportation. Guzman, along with other 27 veterans were given Segway PTs in San Antonio earlier this year. The use of Segway PTs has been submitted to the Department of Justice as an adapted, alternate way of transportation. Guzman hopes the law is signed by the end of the year.
“He is just trying to live his life. It is heartbreaking to know he can’t go about his life like everyone else,” said Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, attorney from the South Texas Civil Rights Project.
Scheurich said a Segway PT is becoming an alternative use of transportation for people with disabilities. Guzman said with his Segway PT, he is able to get faster from place to place. “A Segway is lighter, allows me to move faster,” he said. “What used to take me about two hours to grocery shop, now takes me about 20 minutes.”
The lawsuit states that mall security officers asked Guzman to leave while he shopped with his wife and children.
Guzman sustained injuries from a roadside bomb explosion near his Army vehicle in Iraq in 2004. The explosion caused injuries to his hips, knees, calf muscles, Archilles tendon and cheek muscle. Guzman was in rehabilitation for six months to learn how to speak again and eight months to learn how to walk again.
“I have lost eight ounces of calf muscle,” Guzman said. “That’s the hard part, they don’t see the issue. I look normal and still have my leg because it was not amputated. But try living with the pain of a Charlie horse cramp on a daily basis,” he said.
Les Morris, Director of Public Relations, Simon Property Group said as a matter of policy, they do not comment on pending litigation. And said, "However, our policy is that we do allow persons with mobility disabilities to use Segways within our properties provided they follow a simple registration procedure. We value all of our patrons, and work to maintain a safe, convenient, and first-rate shopping environment for everyone."
Guzman said being the first in South Texas to be given a Segway PT was a humbling experience. “It’s like the first time I received my Purple Heart in 2005. It’s an award that I’ve cherished, and getting this Segway PT has opened many doors for me. I hope this opens the door for more veterans to come.”