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Johnson v. Wayside Property, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 29, 2014

WAYSIDE PROPERTY, INC., a California Corporation, and J& C M HOLDING, INC., a California Corporation, Defendants

For Scott Johnson, Plaintiff: Christopher Arnold Seabock, Phyl Grace, Raymond Ballister, Jr., Russell Handy, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Potter Handy, LLP, San Diego, CA; Mark D. Potter, LEAD ATTORNEY, Center for Disability Access, San Diego, CA.

For Wayside Property, Inc, a California Corporation, J& C M Holding, Inc, a California Corporation, Defendants: Michael David Welch, LEAD ATTORNEY, Michael Welch Associates, Sacramento, CA.

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Plaintiff Scott Johnson, who is wheelchair-bound, brought this action against defendants Wayside Property, Inc., and JC& M holding, Inc., the owners of Wayside Lumber. Plaintiff alleges that he encountered several barriers to access when he attempted to purchase wood at Wayside Lumber and asserts that these barriers to access violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (" ADA" ) and California law. Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

I. Factual & Procedural History

Plaintiff is disabled and requires a wheelchair for mobility. (Johnson Decl. ¶ 2 (Docket No. 11-4.) In June 2013, plaintiff visited Wayside Lumber, a store operated by defendants, on two occasions to purchase items for a project. (Id. ¶ 5.) When plaintiff arrived at Wayside Lumber, he found that the only handicapped parking space was located on the far side of the lot, had faded signage, and did not have sufficient clearance for his wheelchair lift. (Id. ¶ 6-7.) The entrance to Wayside Lumber was equipped with a panel-style door handle, which plaintiff found difficult to use. (Id. ¶ 8.) And when plaintiff went inside the store to make purchases, the transaction counter was too high for him to reach comfortably. (Id. ¶ 9.)

On July 23, 2013, Noah Leiter, an investigator with the Center for Disability Access, visited Wayside Lumber to conduct a site inspection.[1] (Leiter Decl. ¶ 3 (Docket No. 11-5.) Leiter indicates that the only handicapped parking space was not marked as van-accessible, did not have a

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designated access aisle, had faded paint, had no blue border or wheelchair logo, and was located across a vehicular drive path from the building. (Id. ¶ ¶ 4-6.) He found that the door had a panel-style handle. (Id. ¶ 6.) And when he measured the transaction counter, he found that the counter was between 42 and 45 inches in height across its entire length. (Id. ¶ 8.)

Plaintiff filed this action on August 5, 2013, and asserted four claims for: (1) violations of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (2) violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § § 51 et seq.; (3) violations of the California Disabled Persons Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 54; and (4) common-law negligence. Six days after they received the Complaint, defendants retained a Certified Access Specialist and scheduled a site inspection. (McVey Decl. ¶ 3 (Docket No. 14-2).) Less than a month later, defendants took several steps to remedy the alleged violations: they relocated and repainted the handicapped parking spaces, installed new door handles, and set up an area of the transaction counter with distinctive signage and a clipboard for disabled patrons. (Id. ¶ ¶ 4-6.) On May 29, 2014, Leiter returned to Wayside Lumber and confirmed that defendants had modified their handicapped parking area and door handle. (Leiter Decl. ¶ ¶ 10-11.) Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment on his ADA and UCRA claims pursuant to Rule 56.[2] (Docket No. 11.)

II. Discussion

Summary judgment is proper " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A material fact is one that could affect the outcome of the suit, and a genuine issue is one that could permit a reasonable jury to enter a verdict in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and can satisfy this burden by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Alternatively, the moving party can demonstrate that the non-moving party cannot produce evidence to support an essential element upon which it will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id.

Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to " designate 'specific facts

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showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (quoting then-Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). To carry this burden, the non-moving party must " do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). " The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence . . . will be insufficient; there must be evidence on ...

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