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Reycraft v. Lee

September 22, 2009

PATRICIA REYCRAFT, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
ANTHONY YONGAE LEE ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. Gloria Trask, Judge. Affirmed. (Super.Ct.No. INC054715).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ramirez, P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff and appellant Patricia Reycraft appeals from the trial court‟s ruling she does not have standing to maintain a cause of action for damages against the defendants for monetary damages under Civil Code section 54.3.*fn1

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff has elected to proceed only on a single cause of action against the defendants for money damages under section 54.3 based on an alleged violation of sections 54 and 54.1, also known as the California Disabled Persons Act (DPA). Section 54, subdivision (a), states in pertinent part as follows: "Individuals with disabilities or medical conditions have the same right as the general public to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, medical facilities . . . public facilities, and other public places." Subdivision (c) of section 54 states that: "A violation of the right of an individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 . . . also constitutes a violation of this section." Subdivision (a)(1) of section 54.1 also states in pertinent that: "Individuals with disabilities shall be entitled to full and equal access, as other members of the general public, to accommodations, advantages, facilities . . . hotels, lodging places, places of public accommodation . . . and other places to which the general public is invited . . . ." For purposes of this section, " "[f]ull and equal access‟ " "means access that meets the standards of Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [ADA] and federal regulations adopted pursuant thereto, except that, if the laws of this state prescribe higher standards, it shall mean access that meets those higher standards." (§ 54.1, subd. (a)(3).)

The parties waived a jury and elected to proceed to a bench trial on this single cause of action based on stipulated facts. According to the stipulated facts, plaintiff has some paralysis on her right side, uses two forearm crutches, and has a hard brace on her right leg. She walks with a walker and cannot walk without these aids. Defendants are owners and operators of the Tamarisk Mobile Home & RV Park (the Park), which is located in Riverside County. At the Park, tenants rent spaces by the day, week, or month.

A swimming pool is one of the facilities available at the Park for use by tenants and their guests. A $10 fee is assessed for guests who use the pool. The park is not otherwise open to the public and has a locked gate that can only be opened by tenants.

From February 2, 2004, to March 2, 2004, plaintiff‟s sister-in-law was a tenant at the Park. As a tenant, the sister-in-law registered at the park, paid rent, signed a copy of the park rules, and agreed to obey all of the park rules. Although she does not recall the exact date, plaintiff visited her sister-in-law at the Park during this time period to use the swimming pool. However, plaintiff was unable to use the pool because there was no pool lift or other device to help her get in or out of the pool. The sister-in-law did not register plaintiff as a guest, and plaintiff did not pay the $10 guest fee to use the pool.

Plaintiff alleges she is entitled to damages because she discovered that the pool and restroom facilities at the Park were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). In this regard, the stipulated facts state as follows: "Before the lawsuit was filed, the women‟s restroom at the Clubhouse (pool) was not compliant with the ADAAG. During the lawsuit the defendants installed a pool lift and remodeled the restroom to bring it into compliance with the ADAAG."

DISCUSSION

The trial court‟s ruling states, "because the Plaintiff was not a registered guest and did not pay the guest fee, she has no standing to complain that [defendants] failed to provide her with an accommodation." Plaintiff argues the trial court‟s ruling is erroneous based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq.) According to plaintiff, title 42 United States Code section 12188(a)(1) gives her standing to file suit without engaging in a "futile gesture," such as formally registering or paying an entrance fee, if she has "actual knowledge" that the business is not accessible and is in violation of the ADA.

Defendants argue this case is controlled by Jankey v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. (9th Cir. 2000) 212 F.3d 1159 (Jankey). Based on Jankey, defendants believe the ADA does not apply under the circumstances, because the Park is private and not actually open to the public. According to defendants, the Park is not a place of public accommodation under the ADA as to plaintiff, because she did not register and pay for admittance as a tenant and did not register as a guest or pay the guest fee.

In Jankey, access to the defendant‟s production facility was restricted to employees and authorized guests, and security personnel were placed at the entrance to enforce these restrictions. For business purposes, the plaintiff, who was confined to a wheelchair, obtained a visitor‟s pass and had visited the defendant‟s facility on numerous occasions over a 20-year period. (Jankey, supra, 212 F.3d at pp. 1160-1161.) Because he was unable to access a commissary and automatic teller machine at the facility, the plaintiff sued the defendant in federal court claiming discrimination under the public accommodations provisions of title III of the ADA (42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189). (Jankey, at pp. 1160-1161.) However, the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant, because the ...


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