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KRAMER v. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

June 1, 1999

JANINE KRAMER; SHAZIA SIDDIQI; EMILY ALEXANDER; MEGAN JONES; LISA RAPALYEA, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA; ROBERT M. BERDAHL, CHANCELLOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; AND, LARRY N. VANDERHOEF IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Illston, District Judge.

                            ORDER DENYING MOTION
                                 TO DISMISS

On May 21, 1999, the Court heard argument on defendants' motion to dismiss. Having considered the arguments of counsel and the papers submitted, the Court hereby DENIES the defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

On February 24, 1999, plaintiffs Janine Kramer, Shazia Siddiqi and Emily Alexander sued defendants the University of California at Berkeley, the Regents of the University of California, and Robert Berdahl, Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley (collectively "the University") alleging violations of (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. ("ADA"); and (2) § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("Rehab Act"). Plaintiffs filed a substantially similar first amended complaint on May 3, 1999, which named Chancellor Larry Venderhoef of the University of California at Davis and Chancellor Robert Berdahl or the University of California at Berkeley as defendants in their official capacities.*fn1 Plaintiffs are deaf or severely hard-of-hearing students at the University of California, and sue on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated.*fn2 Plaintiffs allege that the class that they represent "is composed of all students who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing who have been denied the right to full and equal access to the benefits of the programs, services and activities of [the University of California] because of the violations described herein, and persons who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing who have been deterred from enrolling at [the University of California] because of the violations described herein." First Amended Complaint, ¶ 21. This motion to dismiss is deemed to be directed toward the first amended complaint.

Plaintiffs allege that the University has failed to provide students with hearing disabilities with equal access to the benefits of its programs, services and activities. Plaintiffs contend, inter alia, that the University has (1) provided accommodations and services that are not accurate and effective; (2) failed to provide prompt accommodations and services, including delays of a period of weeks or months; (3) failed to participate in a good faith interactive accommodation process; (4) failed to provide accommodations and services for extracurricular activities which are provided to nondisabled students; and (5) failed to install an effective back-up plan to provide accommodations when captioners or interpreters suddenly become unavailable.

Presently before this Court is defendants' motion to dismiss the claims of plaintiff Emily Alexander from the complaint. The complaint alleges that Emily Alexander was a law student at Boalt Hall School of Law from the fall semester of 1994 through the spring semester of 1997, and defendants repeatedly denied reasonable accommodations to Ms. Alexander for her disability. First Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 15, 46. Defendants contend that the one-year statute of limitations bars Ms. Alexander's claims. Plaintiffs contend that the applicable statute of limitations is three years, and therefore Ms. Alexander's claims are not barred.*fn3

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim will be denied unless it appears that the plaintiffs can prove no set of facts which would entitle them to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Fidelity Fin. Corp. v. Federal Home Loan Bank, 792 F.2d 1432, 1435 (9th Cir. 1986). All material allegations in the complaint will be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986).

DISCUSSION

Neither the ADA nor the Rehab Act contains its own limitations period. Where federal statutes do not contain their own limitations periods, federal courts apply the most appropriate or analogous state statute of limitations. Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co., 482 U.S. 656, 660, 107 S.Ct. 2617, 2620, 96 L.Ed.2d 572 (1987); Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 269, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 1941-42, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985). In so doing, courts must determine whether the application of that limitations period is consistent with the federal statute and its underlying policies. Wilson, 471 U.S. at 266-68, 105 S.Ct. at 1941-43.

The parties agree that neither the ADA nor the Rehab Act contains its own statute of limitations. The parties do not agree, however, on which state statute of limitations is almost appropriate for plaintiffs' claims under the ADA and the Rehab Act. Defendants argue that the one-year personal injury statute of limitations in California Code of Civil Procedure § 340(3) should apply. Plaintiffs argue that the three-year statute of limitations in California Code of Civil Procedure § 338(a) should apply. Ms. Alexander's claims would be barred under the one-year limitations period but would not be barred under the three-year limitations period.

Plaintiffs argue that a three-year limitations period should apply because the state law most analogous to the ADA is the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.*fn4 The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides:

  All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are
  free and equal, and no matter what their . . .
  disability are entitled to the full and equal
  accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or
  services in all business establishments of every kind
  whatsoever . . . . A violation of the right of any
  individual under the "Americans ...

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