Bradford v. Wal Mart Stores East, L.P.
OPINION; Order to issue; signed by Judge Janet T. Neff (Judge Janet T. Neff, clb)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:11-cv-660
HON. JANET T. NEFF
WAL MART STORES EAST, L.P.,
Plaintiff Brenda Bradford filed this action against Defendant Wal-Mart Stores seeking
damages and injunctive relief based on Defendant’s failure to provide appropriate disabled parking
spaces at a Wal-Mart store entrance. Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges three counts: (1) Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., violations; (2) Persons with Disabilities Civil
Rights Act (PWDCRA), MICH. COMP. LAWS § 37.1101 et seq. violation; and (3) Negligence.
Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff has filed a Response, and
Defendant has filed a Reply. Having fully considered the parties’ briefs and accompanying exhibits,
the Court concludes that oral argument is unnecessary to resolve the pending motions. See W.D.
Mich. LCivR 7.2(d). Because judgment as a matter of law is not appropriate on any of the three
counts alleged, the motion for summary judgment is properly denied.
Plaintiff suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and is a qualifying
individual with a disability as defined by the ADA (SMF ¶¶ 1-2). On October 1, 2010, Plaintiff was
a customer/business invitee at Defendant’s Wal-Mart store located on 9th Street in Oshtemo
Township, Kalamazoo County, Michigan (id. ¶ 4). The Wal-Mart store has three public entrances:
two main public entrances on the east side of the building abutting the main parking area for the
store, and one public entrance in the tire and lube express (TLE) area, located on the north side of
the building (id. ¶ 6). The two main public entrances are marked as accessible entrances for persons
with disabilities and have automatic door openers; the public entrance in the TLE area is not marked
as being an accessible entrance to persons with disabilities and does not have an automatic door
opener (id. ¶ 7).
There are two designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities in the TLE area, but
those spaces are not on the shortest accessible route of travel to the public entrance (id. ¶¶ 9-10).
There are at least four parking spaces closer to the public entrance in the TLE area, all of which were
occupied when Plaintiff arrived (id. ¶ 10). After Plaintiff parked in one of the designated disabled
parking spaces she walked to the public entry door in the TLE area; on her way, she became short
of breath and had to stop to rest (id. ¶¶ 11-12). Plaintiff entered the store and waited in line
approximately twenty minutes to have a key made (id. ¶ 13). Plaintiff then left to return to her car
through the same TLE public entrance; she did not ask for assistance to return to her car (id. ¶¶ 14-
Where noted, the facts are drawn from Defendant’s Statement of Material Facts (SMF) (Dkt
58, Ex. A), with which Plaintiff agrees.
15). As Plaintiff was walking back to her car she stopped to take a rest, then continued walking,
fainted and fell to the ground (id. ¶ 16).
According to her Complaint, Plaintiff sustained abrasions and contusions on her face and left
elbow from her fall, and was immediately taken to the emergency room after someone discovered
her (Compl. ¶¶ 19-20). She also sustained a knot on her head (id. ¶ 21). Plaintiff has experienced
severe headaches and neck pain, shock, emotional distress, and a loss of enjoyment of life (id. ¶¶
II. Legal Standard
A moving party is entitled to a grant of its motion for summary judgment “if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-48 (1986). The court must consider the evidence and all reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party. Slusher v. Carson, 540 F.3d 449, 453 (6th Cir. 2008); Hamilton v. Starcom
Mediavest Group, Inc., 522 F.3d 623, 627 (6th Cir. 2008).
The initial burden is on the moving party to show that there is no dispute regarding any
genuine issue of material fact. Slusher, 540 F.3d at 453. “Once the moving party supports its
motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must go beyond the contents of its pleadings to
set forth specific facts that indicate the existence of an issue to be litigated.” Id. “The ultimate
question is ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury
or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.’” Back v. Nestlé USA,
Inc., 694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated Title III of the ADA because Defendant did not
place its designated disabled parking spaces near the TLE entrance on the shortest accessible route
of travel from adjacent parking to an accessible building entrance, as required by the ADA/ADA
Accessibility Guidelines2 (ADAAG).3 Plaintiff seeks relief under the PWDCRA on the basis of the
alleged ADA violation. Plaintiff’s negligence claim is based on an allegation that the ADAAG, and
the regulations implementing the ADA, provide that places of public accommodation must have
accessible parking spaces for disabled individuals, and Defendant failed to have appropriate parking
spaces for the disabled as described.
A. ADA Claim
Defendant seeks summary judgment of Plaintiff’s ADA claim on the grounds that the TLE
entrance is ADA-compliant even though it is not accessible (Def. Br. at 9). Defendant argues that
the TLE entrance is not a accessible entrance and is not required to be an accessible entrance4 (id.
at 8). Defendant’s argument relies on two specific provisions of the ADAAG: § 4.1.3(8)(a)(1) and
§ 4.13. Section 4.1.3(8)(a)(1) provides:
ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities, 28 C.F.R. 36, Appendix A,
available at http://www.ada.gov/reg3a.html#Anchor-Appendix-52467.
The parties do not dispute that the ADAAG requires that “[a]ccessible parking spaces
serving a particular building shall be located on the shortest accessible route of travel from adjacent
parking to an accessible entrance.” ADAAG, § 4.6.2.
Defendant concedes that if the TLE entrance must comply with § 4.1.3(8)(a)(1), then the
accessible parking spaces in the TLE area are not in compliance with the ADA because they are not
“on the shortest accessible route of travel from adjacent parking to an accessible entrance,” pursuant
to § 4.6.2 (Def. Br. at 8).
At least 50% of all public entrances (excluding those in (b) below) must be
accessible. At least one must be a ground floor entrance. Public entrances are any
entrances that are not loading or service entrances.
Section 4.13, entitled “Doors,” provides comprehensive requirements for accessible doors,
such as door hardware, door closers, door signage, opening force, and minimum maneuvering
clearances at doors that are not automatic or power-assisted. ADAAG, § 4.13. Defendant asserts
that it is clear the TLE entrance is not an accessible entrance because the door has none of the
required accessibility features of § 4.13, including door hardware, door closers, or door signage
(Def. Br. at 8).
Defendant asserts that the only remaining question then, is whether the TLE entrance is
required to be accessible (id.). Defendant argues that the TLE entrance is not required to be
accessible because two other entrances to the store are qualified “accessible entrances,” which meets
the ADA requirement that at least 50 percent of entrances be accessible entrances under
§ 4.1.3(8)(a)(i). Defendant states that since the two main entrances to the Wal-Mart store are
accessible, which Plaintiff does not dispute, 67 percent (2 of 3) of the entrances are accessible.
Defendant argues therefore that the TLE entrance is ADA-compliant even though it is not accessible.
The flaw in Defendant’s argument with respect to summary judgment is that, even assuming
it is factually correct, it is limited to only two of several arguably applicable provisions of the
ADA/ADAAG that serve to undermine Defendant’s contention that the TLE entrance is not an
accessible entrance. For example, Plaintiff cites § 4.1.3(8)(d), which provides: “Entrances which
are not accessible shall have directional signage complying with 4.30.1, 4.30.2, 4.30.3, and 4.30.5,
There is no argument that subsection (b) applies on the facts presented.
which indicates the location of the nearest accessible entrance.” Plaintiff points to evidence that the
TLE entrance has no such directional signing. Plaintiff argues that the lack of this signage, by
negative deduction, shows that the entrance was an accessible entrance. Plaintiff further contends
that the evidence conclusively establishes that the TLE entrance is an accessible entrance, which
entitles Plaintiff to judgment as a matter of law.
Plaintiff also disputes that Defendant’s argument is factually correct with respect to the
contention that the TLE entrance has none of the required accessibility features of § 4.13, including
door hardware, door closers, or door signage. Defendant’s argument in reply does not address
Plaintiff’s contentions, and instead cites additional ADAAG provisions concerning accessibility,
which adds to, rather than resolves, the contested legal issues regarding whether the TLE entrance
is ADA compliant.6
Given the disputed issues of fact, and the disputed legal issues, Defendant is not entitled to
summary judgment of Plaintiff’s ADA claim. For the same reasons, Plaintiff’s request for summary
judgment in her favor is denied.
B. Remaining Claims
Defendant acknowledges that Plaintiff’s remaining counts are essentially dependent on
Plaintiff being successful in her argument on the ADA count (Def. Reply, Dkt 60, at 4). Given the
disputed factual and legal issues on the ADA count, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment of
the PWDCRA and negligence counts must be denied.
The Court notes that the parties’ theories and arguments in this case have been to some
extent a moving target, which may be in part due to the complexity of the underlying regulations and
guidelines, but nonetheless renders any resolution more difficult on the briefs before the Court.
Even if Defendant did not concede the interrelationship of the claims under the remaining
counts, the Court concludes that disputed factual and legal issues preclude judgment as a matter of
law on the remaining counts. Contrary to Defendant’s argument, it is not clear that Plaintiff’s
PWDCRA claim fails simply on the grounds that she never made a request for an “accommodation,”
such as assistance getting to her car. Likewise, with respect to the negligence claim, it is not clear
that this claim is superseded by the specific statutory remedies found in the ADA and PWDCRA,
particularly in light of Plaintiff’s argument that her claim for damages for her injuries rests entirely
on her negligence claim because such damages are precluded under the ADA.
For the reasons stated, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is denied. An Order
consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
DATED: December ___, 2012
/s/ Janet T. Neff
JANET T. NEFF
United States District Judge
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