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DEANDA v. SAVINGS INVESTMENT INC.

November 7, 2005.

RUBEN DEANDA, Plaintiff,
v.
SAVINGS INVESTMENT, INC. a California Corporation; DEL TACO, INC., a California Corporation; and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DANA SABRAW, District Judge

ORDER: (1) DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; (2) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND (3) DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF AWARD OF ATTORNEY'S FEES
[Doc. Nos. 16, 20, 25]
This suit arises from Plaintiff Ruben Deanda's ("Plaintiff") Civil Rights action against Defendants Savings Investment, Inc. and Del Taco, Inc. (collectively "Defendants") under the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51 et seq., for allegedly failing to remove architectural barriers at Defendants' facility, located at 1540 Ocotillo Drive, El Centro, California. The parties have now filed cross-motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Defendants also filed a motion for an order denying Plaintiff attorney's fees.

On October 28, 2005, the Court heard oral argument on these motions. Russell C. Handy, Esq. appeared on behalf of the Plaintiff and Lisa A. Wegner, Esq. appeared on behalf of all Defendants. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Defendants' motion for summary judgment and grants Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. In addition, the Court denies Defendants' motion for an order denying Plaintiff attorney's fees.

  I.

  FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff is a person with disabilities who requires a wheelchair for mobility. (Deanda Decl. ¶ 1.) Defendants own and operate a Del Taco restaurant ("Restaurant") located in El Cajon, California, which Plaintiff visits a few times a month. (Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment at 3; Deanda Decl. ¶ 2.) During his visits to Defendants' Restaurant, Plaintiff alleges he encountered architectural barriers denying him full and equal access. (Deanda Decl. ¶ 3, 4.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges he encountered barriers to access as a result of the configuration of the Restaurant's entry doors. (Deanda Decl. ¶ 3.) According to Plaintiff, the entry doors operate in a series which require two people to hold the door open for him to gain access into the Restaurant. (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges he encountered architectural barriers during his visits to Defendants' Restaurant because none of the dining tables have sufficient knee clearance space to accommodate his wheelchair. (Id.) As a result of these barriers, Plaintiff sued Defendants in January of 2005, alleging various causes of action, including violations of the ADA and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act.*fn1

  After Defendants learned of the lawsuit, counsel for Defendants contacted Stanley Albright ("Albright"), Senior Director of Construction and Facilities of Del Taco, Inc., and notified him of Plaintiff's claims regarding the Restaurant's alleged violations of the ADA. (Albright Decl. ¶ 5 attached to Defendants' Opposition.) Thereafter, Defendants undertook steps to ensure that the Restaurant was compliant with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines ("ADAAG") and Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations. (Id.) Subsequently, Defendants removed the interior entrance door and placed a work order for the installation of three new disabled accessible tables. (Id.) In addition, Defendants restriped the parking area and undertook measures to ensure that the restrooms complied with the specifications set forth in the ADAAG and Title 24. (Id.) On August 24, 2005, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, contending: (1) Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief under the ADA are moot because Defendants have remedied the alleged architectural barriers; (2) summary judgment is appropriate as to Plaintiff's ADA claim because he was not deterred from visiting the Restaurant; (3) the Court should decline jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state Unruh claim; and (4) even if the Court were to exercise jurisdiction over the Unruh claim, Plaintiff's claim nonetheless fails because Defendants did not intentionally discriminate against the disabled. On August 26, 2005, Plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that: (1) there are no genuine issues of material fact that Defendants' architectural barriers constitute discrimination under the ADA; and (2) because Plaintiff's state Unruh claim is predicated on Defendants' violation of the ADA, summary judgment also should be granted on the state claim. Both parties filed Oppositions and Replies to the cross-motions for summary judgment.

  On September 21, 2005, Defendants filed a motion for an order denying Plaintiff attorney's fees. Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Defendants' motion on October 14, 2005, and thereafter, Defendants filed a Reply.

  II.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on "all or any part" of a claim where there is an absence of a genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) & (c); Celotex Corp. V. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

  A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party can satisfy this burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322-23. If the moving party fails to discharge this initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

  If the moving party meets this initial burden, the nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment by merely demonstrating "that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995) ("The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position is not sufficient.") (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). Rather, the nonmoving party must "go beyond the pleadings and by [his or] her own affidavits, or by `the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 344 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). "Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv. Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). Moreover, "the district court may limit its review to the documents submitted for purposes of summary judgment and those parts of the record specifically referenced therein." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court is not obligated "to scour the records in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan v. Allen, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Richards v. Combined Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1995)).

  When making its determination, the Court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a ...


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