Johnson v. Ruiz et al

Filing 16

ORDER signed by Senior Judge William B. Shubb on 06/29/15 ORDERING that plaintiff's 12 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Plaintiff is hereby granted an injunction requiring defendants to provide a lowered transaction counter and ad equate accessible parking that is not blocked by inventory in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines contained in 28 C.F.R. Part 36. The court further awards plaintiff statutory damages in the amount of $4,000. (Benson, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 ----oo0oo---11 12 SCOTT JOHNSON, Plaintiff, 13 14 15 16 17 NO. CIV. 2:14-1663 WBS AC MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT v. LEONCIO NATERAS RUIZ; MARIA ISABEL RUIZ; ROBERT DEVITA; and DOES 1-10, Defendants. 18 ----oo0oo---- 19 20 Plaintiff Scott Johnson, a wheelchair-bound 21 quadriplegic, brought this action against defendants Leoncio 22 Nateras Ruiz, Maria Isabel Ruiz, and Robert Devita, who own and 23 operate a store called Valley Trading Post. 24 that he visited Valley Trading Post and encountered barriers to 25 access that violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 26 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”), and related California laws. 27 Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule 28 of Civil Procedure 56. (Docket No. 12.) 1 Plaintiff alleges 1 Plaintiff is a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair for 2 mobility and owns a specially equipped van with a lift that 3 deploys from the passenger side to accommodate his wheelchair. 4 (Decl. of Scott Johnson (“Johnson Decl.”) ¶¶ 2-3 (Docket No. 12- 5 3).) 6 store owned and operated by defendants in Stockton, California. 7 (Id. ¶ 5; Defs.’ Answer ¶ 2 (Docket No. 5).) 8 disabled parking space and access aisle was outlined with faded, 9 white paint instead of blue. On April 8, 2014, plaintiff visited Valley Trading Post, a The store’s single (See Johnson Decl. ¶ 7, Ex. 4.) 10 Several pieces of store merchandize were also placed in the 11 disabled parking space, preventing plaintiff from parking there. 12 (Id.) 13 accessible parking space. 14 Plaintiff therefore parked in an undesignated, non(Id. ¶ 5.) Inside the store, plaintiff found a transaction counter 15 that measured fifty inches in height. 16 There was no lowered counter, and plaintiff could not see the top 17 of the transaction counter or use it from his wheelchair. 18 6.) 19 (See id. ¶ 6, Ex. 4.) (Id. ¶ Plaintiff states that he attempted to visit the store 20 at least five additional times during the month of April 2014, 21 including on April 11, April 14, April 18, and two separate 22 occasions on April 21. 23 disabled parking space blocked by store inventory, including 24 boats, motorbikes, bicycles, lawnmowers, and other merchandize. 25 (Id. ¶ 7, Ex. 4.) 26 space on each occasion. 27 28 (Id. ¶ 7, 9.) Each time he found the Plaintiff took photographs of the parking (See id. Ex. 4.) Plaintiff’s lawsuit asserts four claims: (1) violations of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (2) violations of 2 1 California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (“UCRA”), Cal. Civ. Code 2 §§ 51 et seq.; (3) violations of the California Disabled Persons 3 Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 54-54.8; and (4) common-law negligence. 4 (Compl. ¶¶ 14-26 (Docket No. 1).) 5 judgment as to his first two claims and states in his motion that 6 he will stipulate to dismiss his California Disabled Persons Act 7 and negligence claims if the court grants summary judgment as to 8 his claims under the ADA and UCRA.1 9 Plaintiff moves for summary (Pl.’s Mem. at 3.) Plaintiff requests injunctive relief ordering 10 defendants to make their facilities readily accessible to and 11 usable by individuals with disabilities to the extent required by 12 the ADA. 13 $8,000 in statutory damages. (See Compl. at 7; Pl.’s Mem. at 10.) 14 He also seeks (See Pl.’s Mem. at 10-11.) Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that 15 there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the 16 movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” 17 P. 56(a). 18 of the suit, and a genuine issue is one that could permit a 19 reasonable jury to enter a verdict in the non-moving party’s 20 favor. 21 (1986). 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 Fed. R. Civ. A material fact is one that could affect the outcome Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial Plaintiff has not yet presented the court with a stipulation to this effect signed by both parties. As the court has previously explained in another case involving the same plaintiff, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 governs the unilateral withdrawal of claims. See Johnson v. Wayside Prop., Inc., 41 F. Supp. 3d 973, 975 n.2 (E.D. Cal. 2014) (citing Hells Canyon Preservation Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 403 F.3d 683, 687 (9th Cir. 2005)). If plaintiff intends to withdraw his third and fourth claims, he must either explain why dismissal is appropriate under Rule 15 or submit a stipulation signed by both parties. 3 1 burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material 2 fact and can satisfy this burden by presenting evidence that 3 negates an essential element of the non-moving party’s case. 4 Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). 5 Alternatively, the moving party can demonstrate that the non- 6 moving party cannot produce evidence to support an essential 7 element upon which it will bear the burden of proof at trial. 8 Id. 9 Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the 10 burden shifts to the non-moving party to “designate ‘specific 11 facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” 12 324 (quoting then-Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). 13 the non-moving party must “do more than simply show that there is 14 some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” 15 Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). 16 “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence . . . will be 17 insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could 18 reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” 19 at 252. Id. at To carry this burden, Matsushita Anderson, 477 U.S. 20 In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must 21 view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving 22 party and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. 23 255. 24 and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury 25 functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for 26 summary judgment . . . .” 27 28 Id. at “Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, Id. Defendants do not dispute that their property was not fully ADA compliant, and they offer no evidence to refute the 4 1 alleged violations. 2 Accordingly, because there is no genuine dispute regarding the 3 existence of barriers to access, the court will enter summary 4 judgment for plaintiff on the issue of liability under the ADA 5 and the UCRA.2 6 (Defs.’ Opp’n at 1 (Docket No. 13).) Defendants challenge goes only to the amount of 7 monetary damages due to plaintiff under the UCRA. 8 at 2-3.) 9 by barriers to access to recover monetary damages. (Defs.’ Opp’n Unlike the ADA, the UCRA permits plaintiffs aggrieved Cal. Civ. 10 Code § 52(a); Munson v. Del Taco, Inc., 46 Cal. 4th 661, 669 11 (2009). 12 thereby mooted the plaintiff’s ADA claim, those remedial measures 13 will not moot a UCRA claim for damages. 14 (US), Inc., 439 F. Supp. 2d 1054, 1069 (E.D. Cal. 2006) (Karlton, 15 J.) (citing Grove v. De La Cruz, 407 F. Supp. 2d 1126, 1131 (C.D. 16 Cal. 2005)). 17 Even if a defendant has removed barriers to access and Wilson v. Pier 1 Imports The UCRA provides statutory damages for each occasion a 18 plaintiff is denied full and equal access. 19 §§ 52(a), 55.56(e). 20 that he visited Valley Trading Post a total of six times, and 21 each time he found the accessible parking spot obstructed by 22 defendants’ inventory.3 Cal. Civ. Code Plaintiff has presented undisputed evidence The minimum statutory damages available 23 2 24 25 26 27 28 The UCRA “incorporates the substantive standards of the ADA and creates a private right of action as a matter of state law.” Dep’t of Fair Emp’t & Hous. v. Law School Admission Council Inc., 896 F.Supp.2d 849, 865 (N.D. Cal. 2012). The law provides that “[a] violation of the right of any individual under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 . . . shall also constitute a violation of [the UCRA].” Cal. Civ. Code § 51(f). 3 Plaintiff has provided date-stamped photographs of the 5 1 for each visit is $4,000. 2 See Cal. Civ. Code § 52(a). However, “in an action alleging multiple claims for the 3 same construction-related accessibility violation on different 4 particular occasions,” California law requires the trier of fact 5 to “consider the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s conduct in 6 light of the plaintiff’s obligation, if any, to mitigate 7 damages.” 8 or the equivalent of two visits. 9 evidence of any effort to mitigate damages. Id. § 55.56(h). Plaintiff initially requested $8,000 However, he has presented no For example, there 10 is no evidence that plaintiff alerted defendants to the barriers 11 he encountered before returning to their store, and plaintiff has 12 not suggested any reason why he may have expected the barriers to 13 be removed upon his return visits. 14 Civ. No. 11-00643 JCS, 2013 WL 6073516, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 18, 15 2013) (“One way that plaintiffs may fail to meet their duty [to 16 mitigate damages] is to make multiple visits to the same facility 17 before they could reasonably expect that the barrier was 18 corrected; this is sometimes referred to as stacking.”) 19 See Yates v. Vishal Corp., Rather than argue the point, plaintiff’s reply brief 20 further limited his requested relief to $4,000--the minimum 21 damages available for a single occasion he was denied full and 22 equal access. 23 concession eliminates the obstacle of mitigation. 24 therefore grant summary judgment for plaintiffs in the amount of 25 $4,000. 26 (Pl.’s Reply at 2 (Docket No. 14).) This The court will At oral argument, the court noted--and the parties 27 28 parking space from each visit. (Johnson Decl. Ex. 4.) 6 1 agreed--that this case could have been settled much earlier for 2 the same amount. 3 disability-related cases filed by this same plaintiff routinely 4 settle for $4,000 before the filing of a dispositive motion. 5 those cases, counsel agree that the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees 6 generally amount to no more than $6,000 to $8,000. 7 plaintiff’s decision to hold out for a damage award of $8,000 8 until the last minute has caused him to incur seemingly 9 unnecessary attorneys’ fees that he may later seek to recover Counsel for both sides represented that similar In Yet, 10 from defendants. 11 seriously take this fact into account in deciding how much to ask 12 for in attorney’s fees in this case. 13 Accordingly, the court cautions counsel to IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for 14 summary judgment be, and the same hereby is, GRANTED. 15 is hereby granted an injunction requiring defendants to provide a 16 lowered transaction counter and adequate accessible parking that 17 is not blocked by inventory in compliance with the Americans with 18 Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act 19 Accessibility Guidelines contained in 28 C.F.R. Part 36. 20 court further awards plaintiff statutory damages in the amount of 21 $4,000. 22 Dated: June 29, 2015 23 24 25 26 27 28 7 Plaintiff The

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