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Rapp v. Lawrence Welk Resort

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 30, 2014

JULIE RAPP, Plaintiff,
v.
LAWRENCE WELK RESORT, the d/b/a/ of WELK RESORT GROUP, INC.; WELK RESORT PROPERTIES, INC.; WELK HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT, INC.; WELK RESORTS PLATINUM OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC.; and THE VILLAS AT THE WELK RESORT VACATION OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Defendants.

ORDER: (1) DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE (2) GRANTING IN PART MOTION SEEKING LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT [Docket Nos. 67, 68]

ROGER T. BENITEZ, District Judge.

Before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Strike the First Amended Complaint (Docket No. 68) and Plaintiff Julie Rapp's Motion Seeking Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (Docket No. 67). After full consideration of the briefing and the record in this matter, this Court DENIES the Motion to Strike and GRANTS IN PART the Motion Seeking Leave to File the Second Amended Complaint.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff suffered a stroke in 1997 which paralyzed the left side of her body. (Compl. ¶ 4). Plaintiff cannot independently stand or walk, and requires a walker or wheelchair for mobility. ( Id. ) Around 2008, Plaintiff and her husband purchased a timeshare at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido, CA (Resort). ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims she was assured when she bought the membership that she would be given accessible rooms to accommodate her disability-related needs. ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims that she has been given rooms that are designated as wheelchair accessible, but which have access barriers. ( Id. ¶ 5). She also claims to have encountered barriers in public areas on the Resort grounds. ( Id. ¶ 5). Plaintiff asserts that she was informed that all rooms, including the wheelchair-accessible rooms, were reserved and assigned on a "first come, first served basis." ( Id. ¶ 22). Plaintiff claims that the Resort failed to modify its policies and practices to ensure Plaintiff was not denied an accessible guestroom based on "first come, first served policies, " and the Resort required her to pay extra money to upgrade her membership to be guaranteed an accessible room. ( Id. ¶ 29).

On May 23, 2012, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Defendants pursuant to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., and various California civil rights statutes. (Docket No. 1). Plaintiff alleged that Defendants, who are owners, operators, lessors, and lessees of the Resort, violated the statutes by (1) constructing or failing to remove architectural barriers to accessibility in the Resort, and (2) imposing and failing to modify discriminatory policies on how the accessible guest rooms are assigned to timeshare members. ( Id. ) Plaintiff sought injunctive relief under the ADA, as well as damages, attorney's fees, and litigation costs pursuant to the California civil rights statutes. ( Id. at 26-27).

On November 25, 2013, this Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a First Amended Complaint (FAC) in order to (1) allege with greater specificity the barriers that constitute the grounds for her claim in public areas and accessible rooms with roll-in showers, and (2) allege claims regarding accessible rooms without roll-in showers. However, the Court ruled that Plaintiff could not file the version of the amended complaint proposed in her motion to amend because it included expert reports which included violations that Plaintiff concededly had no standing to assert. (November 25 Order at 9-10). Instead, Plaintiff had to "specifically and clearly identify which additional barriers she claims she may assert under the ADA." ( Id. )

Plaintiff filed the FAC on December 13, 2013. (Docket No. 66). She applied for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint (SAC) the same day. (Docket No. 67). Defendants filed a Motion to Strike the FAC on December 27, 2013. (Docket No. 68). Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion on January 16, 2014, asserting that the same problems which they alleged existed in the FAC also existed in the proposed SAC. (Docket No. 69).

Defendants' arguments in favor of striking the FAC and against permitting the filing of the proposed SAC center on Plaintiff's inclusion of two modified expert reports in her pleading. The pleadings state that Exhibit A contains a comprehensive list of barriers in wheelchair-accessible guest room with roll-in showers, and is incorporated by reference. (FAC ¶ 33; SAC ¶ 33). Plaintiff specifically states that the barriers are directly related to her disabilities, and that she seeks and is entitled to injunctive relief with respect to these barriers. (FAC ¶ 33; SAC ¶ 33). Exhibit A consists of a chart which has column headings for the feature, the "location/memo, " the required condition, the actual condition, the federal citation, and the California citation. The pleadings state that Exhibit B lists barriers throughout the Resort which exclude and deter Plaintiff and other individuals with mobility disabilities from full and equal access to the Resort. (FAC ¶ 34; SAC ¶ 43). The pleadings incorporate Exhibit B by reference. (FAC ¶ 34; SAC ¶ 43). They assert that these barriers are directly related to Plaintiff's disabilities and that Plaintiff seeks and is entitled to injunctive relief with respect to these barriers. (FAC ¶ 34; SAC ¶ 43). Exhibit B contains paragraphs for each violation, organized by different sections of the resort. Each violation is numbered, and the text states why the violation is not accessible. The text also cites to the relevant federal and state provisions.

MOTION TO STRIKE

I. Legal Standard

Rule 12(f) allows a court to strike from a pleading any "redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(f). "The function of a 12(f) motion to strike is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial..." Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted). Motions to strike are generally disfavored "because of the limited importance of pleading in federal practice, and because they are often used as a delaying tactic." Neilson v. Union Bank of Cal., N.A., 290 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1152 (C.D. Cal. 2003).

II. Discussion

A. Failure to Plead the Barriers "In the Complaint"

Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not complied with this Court's order that Plaintiff "specifically and clearly" identify the barriers at issue in the operative compliant. (Mot. to Strike at 2). Defendants argue that Plaintiff simply referenced the reports and attached them to the FAC, and did not plead the barriers at issue in the FAC. This Court sees no reason why a plaintiff must include the details in the body of the complaint, rather than providing a proper exhibit. Placement of the list of barriers in an exhibit is not necessarily confusing, and the information is clearly incorporated into the pleading by reference. Indeed, given that ADA cases often involve a large number of violations, permitting a plaintiff ...


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