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Antoninetti v. Chipotle Mexican Grill

April 21, 2008

MAURIZIO ANTONINETTI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL, INC. AND DOES 1 THROUGH 10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Napoleon A. Jones, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND FINDINGS OF FACT AND FOR ADDITIONAL FINDINGS.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Maurizio Antoninetti's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Amend Findings of Fact and for Additional Findings of Fact ("Motion") pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 52(b). For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion.

Background

On August 22, 2005, Plaintiff, who is wheelchair bound, brought the above-captioned action against Defendant Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Chipotle") under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and under the California Disabled Persons Act ("CDPA"). [Doc. No. 1.] Plaintiff claimed that Defendant denied him full and equal access to two of its restaurants, one in Encinitas and the other in Pacific Beach. (Id.) Plaintiff claimed that he was denied the Chipotle experience because the 44 inch food preparation counters obstructed his view. (Id.)

On November 27, 29, 30 and December 3, the Court held a bench trial. In its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment, the Court found that: (1) Defendant's prior practice of accommodating customers with disabilities, including customers in wheelchairs, did not constitute equivalent facilitation under Section 7.2(2)(iii) of the ADAAG; (2) Defendant's current written Customers with Disabilities Policy constitutes equivalent facilitation under Section 7.2(2)(iii) of the ADAAG; (3) Plaintiff is not entitled to an injunction requiring Defendant to lower the wall in front of the Restaurants' food preparation counters; and (4) Plaintiff is entitled to a total of $5000.00 in damages for the occasions on which he encountered barriers to his entrance into Defendant's restaurants. [Doc. No. 229 at 2-3.]

On January 22, 2008, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Findings of Fact and for Additional Findings of Fact. [Doc. No. 230.] On February 25, 2008, Defendant filed its Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion. [Doc. No. 236.] On March 3, 2008, Plaintiff filed its Reply to Defendant's Opposition. [Doc. No. 237.]

Legal Standard

Rule 52(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states the applicable standard for a party to amend a court's findings of fact: "On a party's motion filed no later than 10 days after entry of judgment, the court may amend its findings- or make additional findings- and may amend the judgment accordingly." Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(b).

One of the purposes of Rule 52(b) is to provide the court an opportunity to correct manifest errors of law or fact. Pro Edge L.P. v. Gue, 377 F.Supp.2d 694, 698 (N.D. Iowa 2005); Padilla v. Miller, 143 F.Supp.2d 479, 487 (M.D. Pa. 2001) ("To prevail on a motion to amend ... the movant must show that the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact."). Other recognized grounds for a motion under Rule 52(b) are where a party seeks to amend a judgment based on new evidence not available at trial or where there has been a change in the controlling law. Fontenot v. Mesa Petroleum Co., 791 F.2d 1207, 1291-1220 (5th Cir. 1986); Diebitz v. Arreola, 834 F.Supp.298, 302 (E.D. Wis. 1993).

However, Rule 52(b) is "not intended to serve as a vehicle for rehearing." Davis v. Mathews, 450 F.Supp.308, 318 (E.D. Cal. 1978). A party may not use a Rule 52(b) motion to introduce any new facts or legal theories that were available to them at trial, much less re-litigate facts and legal theories that have previously been rejected by the court. Fontenot, 791 F.2d at 1291-1220; Diebitz, 834 F.Supp. at 302.

The court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are entitled to a presumption of validity, and the party seeking to amend those findings bears the heavy burden of establishing a sufficiently serious factual or legal error that would warrant such. U.S. v. Anderson, 591 F.Supp. 1, 4 (E.D. Wash. 1982), aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds (citing Purer & Co. v. Aktiebolaget Addo, 410 F.2d 871, 878 (9th Cir. 1969)); Wallace v. Brown, 485 F.Supp. 77, 79 (S.D.N.Y. 1979). Furthermore, a motion to amend a court's factual and legal findings is properly denied where the proposed additional facts would not affect the outcome of the case or are immaterial to the court's conclusions. Weyerhaeuser Co. V. Atropos Island, 777 F.2d 1344, 1352 (9th Cir. 1985); Lyons v. Jefferson Bank & Trust, 793 F.Supp. 989, 991 (D. Colo. 1992), aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 994 F.2d 716 (10th Cir. 1993).

Discussion

Plaintiff argues that "to determine whether Chipotle's methods of accomodation provide equivalent facilitation, and to determine the nature of the required remedy, the "Chipotle Experience" must first be adequately and accurately defined." [Doc. No. 230 at 2.] Specifically, he argues that the Court should include additional findings of fact relating to the "Chipotle experience" for standing customers who can see over the wall, the methods of accommodation for people in wheelchairs, Plaintiff's experience at Chipotle, his litigation history, Chipotle's written Customers With Disabilities Policy, and the menu board. (Id. at 3-12.)

Plaintiff has failed to establish any factual or legal grounds for his motion to amend under 52(b). As stated above, amendment under 52(b) requires a showing of manifest error of law or fact in the Court's judgment, new evidence not available at trial, a change in the controlling law, or additional facts that would affect the outcome of the case. E.g., Pro Edge, 377 F.Supp.2d 694, 698; Fontenot, 791 F.2d 1207, 1291-1220; ...


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