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Wilson v. Tony M. Sanchez and Company

January 26, 2009

RONALD WILSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TONY M. SANCHEZ AND COMPANY, INC., DBA MCDONALD'S # 7543; MCDONALDS CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT SUA SPONTE FOR DEFENDANTS

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Ronald Wilson's ("Wilson") motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants Tony M. Sanchez and Company, Inc. doing business as McDonald's #7543 and McDonald's Corporation (collectively "Defendants") oppose the motion. For the reasons set forth below*fn1, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED and Defendants' request for summary judgment to be entered sua sponte by the Court is GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This matter arises from Plaintiff Wilson's numerous visits to the McDonald's Restaurant ("Restaurant") in Dixon, California owned by Tony Sanchez and Company, Inc. Wilson is a seventy-two year old man and has been disabled since 1993. Pl's Mot. for Summary Judgment, filed November 5, 2008, ("Pl's Mot.") at 2:19-20. Wilson claims he visited the Restaurant 33 times spanning from July 1, 2001 to his last visit on March 15, 2008. Pl's Mot. at 3:11-19. During these visits, Wilson asserts he struggled to overcome numerous architectural barriers that prevented him from enjoying full and equal access to the goods and services at the Restaurant. Id. at 3:19-21. Wilson claims he sent a letter to the Restaurant on February 15, 2008 informing Defendants of the barriers and requesting that the barriers be removed. Id. at 3:22-23.

On April 30, 2007, Wilson filed a complaint against Defendants seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief pursuant to the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et. seq., and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act ("Unruh Act"), California Civil Code §§ 51 et seq. Doc. # 1. According to Wilson, Defendants denied him full and equal enjoyment in the use of the Restaurant and failed to remove architectural barriers that violate federal disability access standards as proscribed by the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines ("ADAAG"). Pl's Mot. at 2:1-9. In the instant motion, Wilson seeks summary judgment against Defendants. Doc. # 33. Defendants argue Plaintiff has no competent evidence to support the alleged violations and thus, summary judgment should be denied. Defs' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Pl's Mot., filed December, 3 2008, ("Defs' Opp.") at 2:8-22. In addition, Defendants request this Court to grant summary judgment on their behalf. See Defs' Request for Summary Judgment, Doc. # 34 at Attachment #7.

II. OPINION

A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The purpose of summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims and defenses." Cleotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-324 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 447 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

If the moving party meets its burden, the burden of production then shifts so that "the non-moving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) and citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). The Court must view the facts and draw inferences in the manner most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient: "There must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for [the non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. This Court thus applies to either a defendant's or plaintiff's motion for summary judgment the same standard as for a motion for directed verdict, which 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." Id.

B. The ADA

Plaintiff argues that summary judgment should be granted with respect to his ADA claims against Defendants. Title III of the ADA establishes that "[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation." 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). Here, Wilson alleges that Defendants discriminated against him by failing to remove certain architectural barriers at the Restaurant. Specifically, Wilson asserts that Defendants violated the ADA by failing to abide by the ADAAG standards.

The ADAAG regulations are divided into three categories. The first category of regulations require that newly-constructed public accommodations must comply with specific accessibility requirements set forth in the ADAAG. See 28 C.F.R. Pts. 36.401, 36.406. The second category of regulations concerns the accessibility requirements imposed on public accommodations altered after January 26, 1992. See id. The third category requires the removal of architectural barriers in pre-existing public accommodations. See 28 C.F.R. Pt. 36.304. "Under the ADA's continuing barrier removal obligation, it is discriminatory for owners, operators, lessors or lessees to fail to remove architectural barriers that deny disabled persons the goods and services offered to the general public." Wilson v. Pier 1 Imports (US), Inc., 439 F.Supp.2d 1054, 1066 (E.D. Cal. 2006).

Here, Plaintiff asserts the Restaurant is a newly-constructed public accommodation designed for occupancy after 1993. See Pls' Mot. at 13:19-22. As such, the Court will assume, without deciding, that Defendants are required to comply with the higher accessibility standards imposed on new facilities rather than the lower standards imposed on existing facilities. The Court will therefore assume that Restaurant must comply with the ADAAG standards. See 28 C.F.R. Pt. ...


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