By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against a Dubois motel is shifting the blame for the motel refusing to accommodate a guest with a service dog from the owner to a former employee, who is also the wife of the town’s mayor.
Col. Victoria Miralda filed a lawsuit against the Chinook Winds Motel earlier this year, alleging that someone purporting to be the motel’s owner would not let her stay at the motel last fall because she had a service dog, which she relies on for help with physical disabilities and mental health issues.
But according to a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the attorneys for William Kovac, the motel’s owner, the case “involves an allegation of a single, isolated incident of a failure by [Chinook Winds] to provide services of a pubic accommodation…”
Miralda claims the motel employee violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Wyoming law when it refused to allow her to stay at the motel with her dog.
In particular, Luna helps Miralda going up and down stairs and dealing with anxiety stemming from PTSD her lawsuit said.
Kovac’s attorneys said that the incident took place less than a month after he purchased the motel.
Prior to the incident, he employed Patsy Meyer, the wife of Dubois mayor John Meyer, who Kovac understood to be a “person of good repute in the community…who held herself out as a person with experience in the motel industry.”
Kovac’s attorneys claim he instructed Meyer to accept all service animals, as his long-term intent was to allow animals at the motel.
While not admitting Miralda’s claims were fact, Kovac’s attorneys said that if they were to assume her statements were true, Meyer “acted outside of the scope of her employment” when she refused to provide a room to Miralda.
Miralda and a fellow female veteran attempted to stay at the hotel in September 2021 when returning from an event in Montana, the original lawsuit said. Miralda reserved a room for one night through the Expedia travel website, paying around $120 in advance.
When checking in, Miralda informed Meyer, who identified herself as the owner, that she had a service animal. Meyer said Luna could not stay in the room, as the motel did not allow pets.
When Miralda explained Luna was not a pet, but a service animal, Meyer reiterated the policy of no pets and no exceptions.
Since Meyer would not allow Miralda to stay with Luna, Miralda asked for a refund of her advance payment, but was denied, the lawsuit said.
Kovac’s attorneys, in their dismissal request, said that the motel’s owner became aware within the first month of employing Meyer that she had an “irrational” fear of dogs and that she wanted to keep the “no pets” policy that the former motel owner implemented.
“Mr. Kovac had several meetings with Mrs. Meyer before the alleged incident at hand and told her that service animals were to be allowed to stay at the motel anytime,” the motion said.
Once Kovac found out about the incident, he attempted to contact Miralda to provide her a refund and apologize, but was only able to reach her attorney.
He also fired Meyer for her alleged actions.
Kovac’s attorneys argued that since he has rectified the situation and the motel now allows service animals, the court should dismiss Miralda’s ADA violation claim as “moot.”
Meyer did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Wednesday.