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Timothy S. Daubert v. Lindsay Unified School District

May 4, 2012

TIMOTHY S. DAUBERT
PLAINTIFF,
v.
LINDSAY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER RE: CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Docs. 69 and 70)

I. Introduction

Pending before the Court is Lindsay Unified School District's ("Defendant" or "the district") Motion for Summary Judgment filed on February 17, 2012. Also pending before the Court is Timothy Daubert's ("Plaintiff") Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment filed on February 17, 2012. *fn1 A hearing on the motions was scheduled for March 23, 2012. The Court took this matter under submission pursuant to Local Rule 230 (g). Upon a review of all of the pleadings, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

II. Summary of Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint alleges he is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair for mobility. He contends that he has attempted to attend football games at the Lindsay High School Stadium for several years but is prevented from doing so because the bleacher seating is not accessible to wheelchair users. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was able to attend the games, however, he was only able to view the game from the ground level which is a different vantage point from the other spectators sitting in the bleachers. He argues that this seating is inferior because he either has to look through a gate, or his view of the game is blocked by other bystanders, coaches, and players walking in front of him. Plaintiff stopped attending the games and complained to the school district, but he alleges the district took no action.

As a result, Plaintiff alleges violations of the American with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 ("ADA"), and regulations promulgated thereunder at 28 C.F.R. Part 35 et seq, as well as a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("RA"). Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and requests that the district be required to provide accessible bleacher seating or programmatic access to persons in wheelchairs, actual damages, attorney's fees, and costs of the suit.

Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment filed on February 17, 2012. (Doc. 69). On March 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Opposition. (Doc. 71). On March 16, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Reply. (Doc. 73).

Also pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed on February 17, 2012. *fn2 (Doc. 70). On March 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion. (Doc. 72). Plaintiff filed a Reply on March 16, 2012. (Doc. 74). After the matter was taken under submission, Defendant filed a Sur-Reply. *fn3 (Doc. 76). The Court has reviewed all of the documents listed above in rendering its decision. *fn4

III. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that no genuine issue as to any material fact exists, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Under summary judgment practice, the moving party

[a]lways bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catret , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

"[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a Summary Judgment Motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id . In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323.

In resolving cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court must consider each party's evidence. Johnson v. Poway Unified School Dist., 658 F.3d 954, 960 (9th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff bears the burden of proof at trial, and to prevail on summary judgment, he must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for him. Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc. , 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). Defendants do not bear the burden of proof at trial and in moving for summary judgment, they need only prove an absence of evidence to support Plaintiff's case. In re Oracle Corp. Securities Litigation , 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010).

In judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty , 509 F.3d at 984 (quotation marks and citation omitted), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach , 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

IV. Summary of The Parties Stipulated Undisputed Material Facts *fn5

1. The Lindsay Unified School District hosts high school football games, which are open to the public. The high school football games are held at the stadium at Lindsay High School. Document 68-1 is an overhead image of the football stadium at Lindsay High School. The image contains a mark in the upper corner indicating its geographic orientation. Document 68-2 through 68-9 are a series of pictures from various points around the stadium.

2. Documents 68-2 through 68-5 show the bleachers which are located south of the football field. The south side bleachers were constructed in 1971. The south side bleachers have never been reconstructed or altered.

3. The only entry into the structure of the south side bleachers ('the bleachers") is by the stairs. There is no ramp or lift to enable a person in a wheelchair to get into the bleachers. There is also no clear floor space within the structure of the south side bleachers where a wheelchair may be located.

4. There is a path consisting of concrete pavers leading from the parking lot (which is south of the stadium) into the stadium and around the facility. The playing surface of the football field consists of artificial turf. The artificial turf extends approximately 20 yards beyond the boundary of the football field on the north and south sides. The artificial turf extends approximately 5 yards beyond the boundary of the football field on the east and west sides. There is a chain link fence on the north and south sides of the turf, which separates the turf from the paved area. There are gates in the fence allowing access to the turf area at various points. On the east and west ends of the fields, behind each end zone, there is no fence separating the field and the paved area.

5. There is no assigned or reserved seating at the Lindsay High School stadium for football games, and the district does not restrict or assign handicapped persons to any particular seating location.

6. The district offers three particular locations from which persons in wheelchairs are able to watch the game: (1) behind either end zone on either the grass or the pavers; (2) near the corner of the field, in any corner; and (3) along the sideline, near to the fence separating the turf and the pavers, at approximately either 25 yard line. Documents 68-10 through 68-13 contains three pictures taken on November 11, 2011, during a varsity football game. Document 68-10 shows the view from behind the end zone on the west side of the field. Document 68-11 shows the view from the southwest corner of the field. Document 68-12 shows the view from along the south sideline near to the fence separating the turf from the pavers, at approximately the 30 yard line. There are no fixed seats at any of these locations.

7. The routes to each of the locations identified in undisputed fact #6 are accessible to a wheelchair without the need to carry or lift the wheelchair.

8. Spectators in wheelchairs may also sit behind the fence, on the paved area, at any point along the fence.

9. Spectators in wheelchairs regularly attend the high school football games.

10. Frank Moreno has attended approximately 2-3 football games each season at the Lindsay High School stadium with his son Jeremy since approximately 2002. Jeremy uses a wheelchair for mobility.

11. Mr. Moreno and Jeremy usually sit behind the end zone on the eastern side of the stadium. From this location, they are able to watch and enjoy the football games. There is an unobstructed view of the action. The location is near to where food is served, and other spectators tend to congregate in the area to watch the games. Mr. Moreno and Jeremy are able to enter and leave this location freely while the game is in progress.

12. Mr. Moreno and Jeremy also occasionally sit at the southwest corner of the field. From this location, they are able to watch and enjoy the football games. There is an unobstructed view of the action. The location is near to where food is served. When at this location, they are normally joined by additional friends and family. Mr. Moreno ...


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