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Moeller v. Taco Bell Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 5, 2013

FRANCIE MOELLER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TACO BELL CORPORATION, Defendant

Bob Evans, Special Master, Pro se, San Marcos, CA.

For Francie E. Moeller, Edward Muegge, Katherine Corbett, Craig Thomas Yates, Plaintiffs: Timothy P. Fox, LEAD ATTORNEY, Amy F. Robertson, Ari Reuben Krichiver, Fox & Robertson, P.C., Denver, CO; Antonio Michael Lawson, Lawson Law Offices, Oakland, CA; Brad Seligman, Jocelyn Dion Larkin, Impact Fund, Berkeley, CA; Mari Mayeda, Attorney at Law, Berkeley, CA.

For Taco Bell Corp., Defendant: Gregory F. Hurley, Roger Leonard Scott, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Irvine, CA; John A. Makarewich, Irvine, CA; Michael Chilleen, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Irvine, CA; Richard Lewis Deleissegues, Taco Bell Corp, Irvine, CA; Thomas P. Howard, Louisville, CO.

For Marie Hill, Interested Party: Julia Campins, LEAD ATTORNEY, Campins Benham-Baker, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States.

For Attorney Ronald Elsberry, Miscellaneous: Ronald Lee Elsberry, Los Angeles, CA.

OPINION

Page 900

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, United States District Judge.

Before the court is the motion of defendant Taco Bell Corporation (" Taco Bell" ) for partial summary judgment, filed pursuant to the court's September 17, 2012 order modifying the case management plan. The motion, which Taco Bell filed on March 4, 2013, was fully briefed on March 25, 2013. However, at the parties' request, the court delayed consideration of the motion until after the Ninth Circuit had issued the mandate following plaintiffs' appeal of two case management orders.

Page 901

The mandate issued on July 17, 2013.

Having read the parties' papers and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, the court now rules as follows.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Francie Moeller, Katherine Corbett, Edward Muegge, and Craig Yates filed the original complaint in this disability access case on December 17, 2002, alleging a total of five barriers encountered at a total of six stores owned by Taco Bell in California. Plaintiffs subsequently sought leave to amend the complaint to add an additional state law claim. The motion was granted, and plaintiffs filed the first amended complaint (" FAC" ) on August 4, 2003.

The FAC alleges the same five barriers at the same six stores as did the original complaint. The five barriers are queue lines, parking access, drink dispenser placement, condiment placement, and accessible seating. The six stores are Restaurant # 3948 in Santa Rosa; Restaurant # 4518 in Richmond; Restaurant # 18112 in Santa Rosa; Restaurant # 4558 in Rohnert Park; Restaurant # 4799 in Rohnert Park; and Restaurant # 4951 in Novato.

Not all barriers were encountered by all named plaintiffs at all the identified restaurants. The FAC alleges that Ms. Moeller encountered queue lines, and condiment placement and drink dispenser placement barriers at Restaurant # 3948; that Ms. Corbett encountered queue lines and parking access barriers at Restaurant # 4518; that Mr. Muegge encountered queue lines, and parking access and seating barriers at Restaurant # 3948, Restaurant # 18112; Restaurant # 4558; and Restaurant # 4951; and that Mr. Yates encountered queue lines at Restaurant # 4951.

The FAC does not state the number of visits by each named plaintiff, only that the visits occurred " [w]ithin the twelve months prior to the filing of this [c]omplaint." FAC ¶ ¶ 29, 33, 37, 41. There are no allegations of any " deterred visits."

Recently, however, plaintiffs have indicated in discovery that they intend to claim damages for a total of 13 barriers at a total of nine Taco Bell restaurants -- for a total of 169 visits or deterred visits at the nine restaurants. The eight new barriers are entry door weight, floor space at drink dispenser, drink lid dispenser height, toilet seat height, toilet seat cover dispenser height, un-insulated pipes, bathroom door weight, and maneuvering area at bathroom door. The three additional restaurants are Restaurant # 2968 in Santa Rosa; Restaurant # 4211 in Santa Rosa; and Restaurant # 16520 in Petaluma. Taco Bell asserts that plaintiffs cannot pursue claims regarding barriers encountered by them but not disclosed in the FAC, and regarding stores not disclosed in the FAC.

Taco Bell contends that plaintiffs' discovery responses also indicate that they seek relief for visits that occurred after the filing of the original complaint and the FAC; and that they identify visits, stores, and features that the named plaintiffs allegedly encountered before they filed the FAC, but which are not mentioned in the FAC. Taco Bell argues that plaintiffs cannot pursue claims based on visits that occurred after the filing of the FAC, claims not referenced in the FAC, or claims based on deterred visits.

Although Taco Bell asserts in its notice of motion that it seeks " partial summary judgment on whether the four named plaintiffs may proceed with claims regarding barriers encountered by them at stores not disclosed in the first amended complaint," as directed in the court's September

Page 902

17, 2012 order, Taco Bell also appears to be seeking partial summary judgment as to several other issues.

The court interprets the motion as seeking a ruling as to (1) whether plaintiffs can seek damages based on barriers not alleged in FAC and/or at stores not alleged in FAC; (2) whether plaintiffs are limited to barriers they encountered in the 12 months prior to the filing of the original complaint; (3) whether plaintiffs have standing to bring claims for damages for violations that occurred after the filing of the FAC; and (4) whether plaintiffs can seek damages for deterrence claims that were not pled in the FAC.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

A party may move for summary judgment on a " claim or defense" or " part of . . . a claim or defense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is ...


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