Johnson v. Elk Horn Gas, Inc.

Filing 47

MEMORANDUM and ORDER signed by District Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. on 10/5/2017 GRANTING plaintiff's 39 Motion for Summary Judgment. CASE CLOSED. (Zignago, K.)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 SCOTT JOHNSON, 11 12 13 No. 2:14-cv-00798-MCE-DB Plaintiff, v. MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ELK HORN GAS INC., 14 Defendant. 15 16 This lawsuit was brought by Plaintiff Scott Johnson (“Plaintiff”) under the 17 provisions of both the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. 18 (“ADA”), and California’s Unruh Civil Rights and Disabled Persons Acts (Cal. Civ. Code 19 §§ 51-53, 54-54.8)1 on grounds that Defendant Elk Horn Gas, Inc. (“Elk Horn”) failed to 20 provide a compliant accessible parking space and transaction counter at its Elkhorn 21 Shell service station located at 4261 Elkhorn Blvd in North Highlands, California. 22 Presently before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment which 23 seeks both an order that the disability access deficiencies be rectified, as well as money 24 damages in the amount of $8,000.00. Defendant Elk Horn has failed to oppose the 25 Motion. As set forth below, Plaintiff’s Motion is GRANTED.2 26 1 27 Plaintiff also alleges a state common law claim for negligence in his Fourth Cause of Action. 2 28 Having determined that oral argument would not be of material assistance, the Court ordered this matter submitted on the briefs in accordance with E.D. Local Rule 230(g). 1 1 BACKGROUND 2 3 On September 11, 2013, Plaintiff went to Defendant’s Elkhorn Shell station and 4 discovered that the “van accessible” parking stall lacked signage and was too steep and 5 uneven for him to exit his vehicle safely and independently in a wheelchair. Pl.’s 6 Statement of Undisputed Facts, No. 5, 8-10. In addition, when Plaintiff went inside the 7 station to make his purchase, he discovered that the transaction counter was too high for 8 him to use when seated in his chair. Id. at 15. According to Plaintiff, he returned to the 9 Elkhorn Shell on four additional occasions and encountered the same barriers on each 10 subsequent visit. Id. at 18. 11 In now moving for summary judgment, Plaintiff submits evidence demonstrating 12 just how the barriers he encountered were legally inadequate under the ADA and how 13 he is entitled to statutory damages under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which 14 provides for a statutory penalty of $4,000.00 for each ADA violation under Cal. Civ. Code 15 § 55.56(a). Although Plaintiff visited Elkhorn Shell on a total of five different occasions 16 and claims he was subjected to access barriers on each occasion, he requests statutory 17 damages for only two visits, or $8,000.00. 18 19 STANDARD 20 21 The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when “the 22 movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is 23 entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. 24 Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to 25 dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. 26 Rule 56 also allows a court to grant summary judgment on part of a claim or 27 defense, known as partial summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (“A party may 28 move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense—or the part of each 2 1 claim or defense—on which summary judgment is sought.”); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. 2 Madan, 889 F. Supp. 374, 378-79 (C.D. Cal. 1995). The standard that applies to a 3 motion for partial summary judgment is the same as that which applies to a motion for 4 summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); State of Cal. ex rel. Cal. Dep’t of Toxic 5 Substances Control v. Campbell, 138 F.3d 772, 780 (9th Cir. 1998) (applying summary 6 judgment standard to motion for summary adjudication). 7 In a summary judgment motion, the moving party always bears the initial 8 responsibility of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying the 9 portions in the record “which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of 10 material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party meets its initial 11 responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine 12 issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith 13 Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); First Nat’l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 14 253, 288-89 (1968). 15 16 ANALYSIS 17 18 Plaintiff’s moving papers meet his initial burden in showing entitlement to 19 summary judgment against Defendant Elk Horn on grounds that its service station 20 contained the access barriers delineated above. That showing shifts the burden, under 21 the Matsushita analysis cited above, to Defendant Elk Horn to show that genuine 22 material issues of fact indeed exist. Defendant Elk Horn has failed to meet that burden, 23 and in the absence of any showing whatsoever in that regard, Plaintiff is entitled to 24 summary judgment as requested. 25 Plaintiff’s Motion was initially scheduled to be heard on May 4, 2017. Defendant 26 Elk Horn, although represented by counsel, failed to file a timely opposition to 27 Defendant’s Motion in advance of that hearing date as required by E.D. Local 28 Rules 230(c) and 260(b). By Minute Order dated April 26, 2017, the Court notified 3 1 Defendant Elk Horn of that deficiency and vacated the May 4, 2017 hearing date. ECF 2 No. 46. The Court also issued an Order to Show Cause (“OSC”) as to why Plaintiff’s 3 Motion should not be granted, and judgment entered in Plaintiff’s favor, given that failure. 4 Defendant Elk Horn was ordered to respond to the OSC within ten days following the 5 date the Minute Order was electronically filed and was advised that failure to do so 6 would result in judgment being entered in Plaintiff’s favor without further notice. Id. 7 Plaintiff filed no response whatsoever to the Court’s Order. Given that failure, and 8 because Defendant Elk Horn has failed to raise any triable issue of fact to counter 9 Plaintiff’s prima facie showing that he is entitled to partial summary judgment, Plaintiff’s 10 Motion will be granted.3 11 12 CONCLUSION 13 14 15 16 17 For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 39) is GRANTED. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: October 5, 2017 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 Additionally, given Defendant Elk Horn’s failure to file any opposition, or respond to the Court’s OSC order, dismissal under 41(b) for failure to comply with the both Rule 56 and the Court’s Local Rules in this regard, constitutes yet another ground for dismissal. 4

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