Dwain Lammey v. Starbucks Corporation et al

Filing 55

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT STARBUCK'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT 39 AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT 41 by Judge Otis D. Wright, II (lc)

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O 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 United States District Court Central District of California 9 10 11 12 Plaintiff, 13 Case № 2:18-cv-10017-ODW (GJSx) DWAIN LAMMEY, v. 14 15 STARBUCKS CORPORATION, a Washington Corporation; and Does 1-10, ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [39] AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [41] Defendants, 16 17 I. INTRODUCTION 18 19 Plaintiff Dwain Lammey alleges the sales counter at Defendant Starbucks 20 Corporation’s coffee shop violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and 21 the Unruh Civil Rights Act (“UCRA”). (Compl. ¶¶ 21–31, ECF No. 1.) Both parties 22 move for summary judgment. (Starbucks Mot., ECF No. 39; Lammey Mot., ECF 23 No. 41.) The Motions are fully briefed. (See Opp’n Lammey Mot., ECF No. 46; Opp’n 24 Starbucks Mot., ECF No. 48; Reply Starbucks Mot., ECF No. 50; Reply Lammey Mot., 25 ECF No. 51.) For the following reasons, Starbucks’s Motion is GRANTED, and 26 Lammey’s Motion is DENIED.1 27 28 1 After carefully considering the papers filed in connection with the Motions, the Court deemed the matters appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-15. 1 II. BACKGROUND 2 Lammey uses a wheelchair for mobility. (Pl.’s Statement of Uncontroverted 3 Facts (“PSUF”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 41-2.) On October 24, 2018, Lammey visited Starbucks’s 4 coffee shop located at 1850 West Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles, California (the 5 “Shop”), to “shop and to assess it for compliance with access laws.” (PSUF ¶ 5; Def.’s 6 Statement of Uncontroverted Facts (“DSUF”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 39-2.) It is undisputed that 7 the Shop provides one continuous transaction counter for use by all customers (the 8 “Counter”), and the approach to the Counter is a parallel approach. (Pl.’s Resp. to 9 DSUF ¶¶ 3, 6, ECF No. 48-1.) It is also undisputed that the Counter is less than 10 36 inches in height and less than 36 inches in length. (Pl.’s Resp. to DSUF ¶¶ 3–4.) 11 After assessing the premises, Lammey initiated this action against Starbucks, alleging 12 that the Counter violates the ADA and the UCRA. (Compl. ¶¶ 21–31.) 13 III. LEGAL STANDARD 14 A court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no 15 genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter 16 of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The burden of establishing the absence of a genuine 17 issue of material fact lies with the moving party, see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 18 317, 322–23 (1986), and the court must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences 19 in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 20 (2007). A disputed fact is “material” where the resolution of that fact might affect the 21 outcome of the suit under the governing law, and the dispute is “genuine” where “the 22 evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” 23 Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Conclusory or speculative 24 testimony in affidavits is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeat summary 25 judgment. Thornhill Publ’g Co. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979). The 26 court may not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations, but there 27 must be more than a mere scintilla of contradictory evidence to survive summary 28 judgment. Addisu v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000). 2 1 Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the nonmoving party cannot simply 2 rest on the pleadings or argue that any disagreement or “metaphysical doubt” about a 3 material issue of fact precludes summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. 4 v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322–23. Nor 5 will uncorroborated allegations and “self-serving testimony” create a genuine issue of 6 material fact. Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002). 7 The court should grant summary judgment against a party who fails to demonstrate facts 8 sufficient to establish an element essential to the case when that party will ultimately 9 bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. 10 Pursuant to the Local Rules, parties moving for summary judgment must file a 11 proposed “Statement of Uncontroverted Facts and Conclusions of Law” that should set 12 out “the material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine 13 dispute.” C.D. Cal. L.R. 56-1. A party opposing the motion must file a “Statement of 14 Genuine Disputes” setting forth all material facts as to which it contends there exists a 15 genuine dispute. C.D. Cal. L.R. 56-2. “[T]he Court may assume that material facts as 16 claimed and adequately supported by the moving party are admitted to exist without 17 controversy except to the extent that such material facts are (a) included in the 18 ‘Statement of Genuine Disputes’ and (b) controverted by declaration or other written 19 evidence . . . .” C.D. Cal. L.R. 56-3. IV. DISCUSSION 20 Lammey asserts two claims against Starbucks, for violations of the ADA and the 21 22 UCRA. (Compl. ¶¶ 21–31.) The Court addresses these claims in turn. 23 A. ADA Claim 24 “Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the ‘full 25 and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or 26 accommodations of any place of public accommodation.’” Oliver v. Ralphs Grocery 27 Co., 654 F.3d 903, 904 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a(b), 12182(a) ). To 28 prevail on a claim for discrimination under Title III of the ADA, a plaintiff must show 3 1 that “(1) she is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) the defendant is a private 2 entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation”; and (3) the 3 defendant denied public accommodation to the plaintiff because of her disability. 4 Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 730 (9th Cir. 2007). “The third element . . . is 5 met if there was a violation of applicable accessibility standards.” Moeller v. Taco Bell 6 Corp., 816 F. Supp. 2d 831, 847 (N.D. Cal 2011); see Chapman v. Pier 1 Imports (U.S.) 7 Inc., 631 F.3d 939, 945 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Lammey argues that the Counter violates the ADA because it is so “cluttered” 8 9 that it violates 28 C.F.R. § 36.211(a). That regulation requires places of public 10 accommodation to “maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities 11 and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with 12 disabilities . . . .” 28 C.F.R. § 36.211(a). Specifically, Lammey cites section 904.4.1 of 13 the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (“2010 Standards”) to argue that “where 14 the approach to the sales or service counter is a parallel approach, such as in this case, 15 there must be a portion of the sales counter that is . . . 36 inches in width that extends 16 the same depth as the rest of the sales or service counter top.” (Lammey Mot. 7–8, 12 17 (citing 36 C.F.R. Pt. 1191, App’x D § 904.4.1).)2 Starbucks, on the other hand, argues 18 that it is not required “to maintain a 36[-inch] length of clear accessible counter,” or 19 even any counter at all, and therefore, its countertop merchandise and displays do not 20 violate the ADA. (Starbucks Mot. 11–13.) Starbucks is correct. 21 “Section 904.4.1 of the 2010 Standards expressly contemplates counters that are 22 built to be less than 36 inches long.” Johnson v. Starbucks Corp., 818 F. App’x 657, 23 659 (9th Cir. 2020); Kong v. Mana Inv. Co., LLC, 818 F. App’x 660, 663 (9th Cir. 2020); 24 Lindsay v. Starbucks Corp., 815 F. App’x 152, 154 (9th Cir. 2020). Consequently, the 25 Ninth Circuit has held that § 36.211(a) does not require Starbucks to “maintain” 36 26 27 28 However, Lammey also concedes that the Counter does not violate “the technical standards found in Section 904.4.1.” (Lammey Mot. 7.) 2 4 1 inches of usable counter space. Johnson, 818 F. App’x at 659–60; Kong, 818 F. App’x 2 at 663; Lindsay, 815 F. App’x at 154. 3 Here, the Counter is of a uniform height, less than 36 inches tall. (Pl.’s Resp. to 4 DSUF ¶ 3.) Thus, despite Lammey’s arguments to the contrary, Starbucks is not 5 required to maintain 36 inches (in length) of usable counter space. See, e.g., Johnson, 6 818 F. App’x at 660. Moreover, the ADA does not require public accommodations to 7 provide transaction counters at all. 8 provided, at least one type of sale counter and service counter shall comply with 904.4.” 9 36 C.F.R. Pt. 1191, App’x C § 227.3 (emphasis added). Rather, the 2010 Standards instruct: “Where Because the guidelines 10 contemplate that no counter might be provided at all, and because there is no length 11 requirement under § 904.4.1 (or otherwise) for counters that are uniformly less than 12 36 inches tall, Lammey cannot prevail on his ADA claim. As a matter of law, 13 “Starbucks’[s] obligation to maintain the transaction counter in operable working 14 condition [does not] demand[] any particular length of clear space for customer use.” 15 Kong v. Mana Inv. Co., No. SA CV 18-01615-DOC (DFM), 2019 WL 3220027, at *4 16 (C.D. Cal. May 1, 2019), aff’d, Kong, 818 F. App’x at 663.3 17 In short, there is no maintenance requirement where there is no counter 18 requirement. “[M]aintenance requirements cannot be more stringent than the building 19 requirements.” Johnson, 818 F. App’x at 660; Kong, 818 F. App’x at 663; Lindsay, 20 815 F. App’x at 155; accord Lammey v. Starbucks Corp., No. CV 18-9972-JFW(ASx), 21 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 239344, at *7–14 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 15, 2020); Arroyo v. Baseline 22 Enter. LLC, No. CV 19-10641-DFM, 2020 WL 6438412, at *4–5 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 19, 23 2020). Lammey’s ADA claim fails as a matter of law, and summary judgment in favor 24 of Starbucks is appropriate. 25 26 27 28 3 The Court also notes that Lammey does not provide any evidence that Starbucks’s merchandise or displays actually hindered his use of the Counter, or that his access to clear counter space differed from that of any other customers. To the contrary, Lammey provides evidence that he successfully purchased a gift card despite the cluttered Counter. (Lammey Mot., Ex. 2, ECF No. 41-5.) 5 1 B. UCRA Claim 2 Lammey also asserts a claim under the UCRA based on the alleged ADA 3 violation. (Compl. ¶¶ 28–31.) While a plaintiff may maintain an independent UCRA 4 claim by alleging intentional discrimination, Lammey does not make such an argument 5 here. (See Lammey Mot. 15.) Because Lammey’s UCRA claim rises and falls with his 6 ADA claim, his UCRA claim fails as well. See, e.g., Lammey v. Starbucks Corp., 7 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 239344, at *17; Cooper v. Wal-Mart Real Estate Bus. Tr., 8 No. EDCV 19-238 JGB (SPx), 2020 WL 3881604, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 3, 2020). 9 Summary judgment is likewise appropriate in favor of Starbucks on this claim V. 10 CONCLUSION 11 For the aforementioned reasons, Starbucks’s Motion for Summary Judgment is 12 GRANTED, (ECF No. 39), and Lammey’s Motion for Summary Judgment is 13 DENIED, (ECF No. 41). The Court will issue Judgment. 14 15 IT IS SO ORDERED. 16 17 18 19 April 26, 2021 ____________________________________ OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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