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Kohler v. Bed Bath & Beyond of California, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 24, 2015

CHRIS KOHLER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BED BATH & BEYOND OF CALIFORNIA, LLC, DBA Bed Bath & Beyond #1136, Defendant-Appellee

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena California: February 3, 2015.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:11-cv-04451-RSWL-SP. Ronald S.W. Lew, Senior District Judge, Presiding, R. Gary Klausner, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Americans with Disabilities Act

The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment and reversed its award of attorneys' fees in favor of the defendant in an action under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Affirming the grant of summary judgment on a claim regarding clearance next to a restroom door in a store, the panel followed the holding of Kohler v. Bed Bath & Beyond of Cal., LLC, 778 F.3d 827, at *2-*3 (9th Cir. Feb. 19, 2015), that the ADA Accessibility Guidelines do not require any length of wall space on the side of the doorframe opposite the hinges.

The panel also affirmed the district court's ruling that the defendant, as a tenant, was not liable for ADA violations occurring in the parking lot outside of its store where that area of the property was controlled by the landlord and was not leased by the defendant.

Reversing the district court's award of attorneys' fees to the defendant as a prevailing party, the panel held that the district court erred in concluding that eight of the plaintiff's ten claims were frivolous.

Scottlynn J. Hubbard, IV (argued), Law Offices of Lynn Hubbard, Chico, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Matthew S. Kenefick (argued), and Martin H. Orlick, Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP, San Francisco, California, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before: Stephen Reinhardt and Ronald M. Gould, Circuit Judges and J. Frederick Motz,[*] Senior District Judge.

OPINION

Page 1261

GOULD, Circuit Judge:

Chris Kohler appeals from a grant of summary judgment to defendant Bed Bath & Beyond of California (" BB& B" ) on Kohler's claims under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), and also appeals the award of attorneys' fees and costs to BB& B as a prevailing defendant. Regarding summary judgment, Kohler contends that the district court erred in concluding that the ADA does not require wall space within the maneuvering clearance next to the frame of a restroom door that must be pulled open; and that the district court erred in ruling that, BB& B, as a tenant, was not liable for ADA violations occurring in the parking lot outside of its store. Kohler further contends that the district court erred in concluding that several of his claims warranted the award of attorneys' fees to BB& B; and that the district court erred in its calculation of fees awarded. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We conclude that Kohler's substantive claims related to maneuvering clearance and tenant liability must be rejected and accordingly we affirm summary judgment. However, we agree that BB& B was not entitled to attorneys' fees for any of Kohler's claims, and so we reverse the district court's fee award.

Page 1262

I

Kohler is disabled; he is a paraplegic and requires the use of a wheelchair to move in public. Several times in May 2011, Kohler visited the BB& B store at the Lake Elsinore Marketplace in Lake Elsinore, California. During those visits he encountered purported architectural barriers, both within the store and in the parking lot of the shopping center, that he claimed impeded his ability to fully use the store. Kohler brought suit against BB& B in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Kohler claimed violations of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § § 12101--12213, and related state law provisions. In his complaint, Kohler alleged ten purported access barriers; those relevant to this appeal relate to: (1) floor and wall space adjacent to the restroom door; (2) slopes and cross-slopes in the shopping center's parking lot; and (3) the placement and operation of toilet paper and paper towel dispensers within the BB& B's restroom.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. With respect to the claims of insufficient clearance next to the restroom door, the district court concluded that the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (" Guidelines" ), which set out the ADA compliance requirements for physical structures, required only a minimum amount of floor space, rather than both floor and wall space on the pull side of a door. The district court also concluded that BB& B did not " own, lease or operate" the shopping center parking lot, and therefore was not liable for any ADA barriers occurring there. Finally, the district court concluded that Kohler had not asserted an actionable barrier with regard to the location of the toilet paper dispenser, as his complaint asserted only violations of state law, and that any violations related to the paper towel dispenser had been rendered moot when BB& B installed a new, compliant dispenser.[1] On this basis, the district ...


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