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Ramirez v. Donuts

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

September 17, 2014

IRMA RAMIREZ and DAREN HEATHERLY, Plaintiffs,
v.
GOLDEN CREME DONUTS, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LAUREL BEELER, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Irma Ramirez and Daren Heatherly are disabled individuals who allege that they were denied equal access to Defendants' Golden Creme Donuts store in San Rafael, California in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and California statutes. See Complaint, ECF No. 1.[1] Now before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. See Plaintiffs' MSJ, ECF No. 39; Defendants' MSJ, ECF No. 41. The court finds this matter suitable for determination without a hearing under Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), DENIES Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, and GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

STATEMENT

I. ALLEGATIONS IN COMPLAINT ABOUT ACCESS

Plaintiffs first visited Golden Creme on May 31, 2012. Complaint ¶ 14. They encountered architectural barriers including "an entrance that did not have a level landing, narrow double doors (one panel being locked) and excessive door pressure... bolted down chairs an[d] tables... and various architectural barriers associated with access to and the facilities within Golden Creme's unisex restroom. Id. ¶¶ 15-18. Plaintiffs allege that they suffered "adverse experiences and detriment, " including embarrassment. Id. Plaintiffs returned to Golden Creme on June 6, 2012, and allegedly encountered the same barriers. Id. ¶ 20. They returned again on July 12, 2012. Id. ¶ 22. This time, the entry doors were open, but they still had difficulty eating because of the "bolted down tables and chairs." Id. ¶ 23.

Paragraph 25 of the complaint lists the difficulties Plaintiffs had with access at the entrance (no level landing, inaccessible entrance, excessive door pressure, and narrow doors), the dining area (lack of required 5% seating), path of travel (hallway door), and restrooms.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Based on their experiences, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants on November 2, 2012, alleging (1) denial of access by a public accommodation in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.; (2) denial of full and equal access in violation of California Civil Code §§ 54, 54.1, and 54.3; (3) denial of accessible sanitary facilities in violation of California Health and Safety Code § 19955, et seq.; and (4) denial of access to full and equal accommodations under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code § 51, et seq. See Complaint ¶¶ 33-35.

On October 4, 2013, Defendants moved to dismiss the federal claims as moot on the grounds that the allegedly inaccessible restroom was no longer available for public use. See Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 12. Plaintiffs opposed the motion and moved to strike it as premature under General Order 56. See Opposition, ECF No. 13; Motion to Strike, ECF No. 15. The court denied both motions, concluding that the issue of mootness could not be decided on the limited factual record that existed before discovery. See Order, ECF No. 18 at 5. The court reasoned that instead, "an early summary judgment motion could be brought that addressed any factual issues about other access and provided the appropriate illumination about the status of the bathroom." Id. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment on August 6, 2014. See Plaintiffs' MSJ, ECF No. 39; Defendants' MSJ, ECF No. 41.

III. UNDISPUTED FACTS

In support of their motions of summary judgment, the parties filed a joint statement of undisputed facts. See Am. Joint Statement, ECF No. 38. Plaintiffs' counsel and counsel's expert confirmed that as of February 2013, Defendants had (1) replaced the entrance doors with an electric door opener, (2) replaced an existing dining table with an ADA-compliant table, and (3) installed appropriate ADA signage. Id. ¶¶ 5-6. Access to Golden Creme's restroom is Plaintiffs' sole remaining challenge. Id. ¶ 7. From at least 1986 through some date in 2013, a corridor with a door at each end connected the dining room and the restroom. Id. ¶ 8. In 2013, Defendants "walled off the corridor such that the restroom cannot be accessed by the public." Id. ¶ 9. The parties stipulate that "[t]here is now a permanent wall in place of the corridor door, such that no one can enter the corridor from the dining area." Id. ¶ 10.

ANALYSIS

I. PLAINTIFFS' ADA ...


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