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Flowers v. Prasad

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fourth Division

July 17, 2015

SETH FLOWERS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
BRINDA PRASAD et al., Defendants and Respondents.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. PC053779, Stephen P. Pfahler, Judge. Reversed and remanded with directions.

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COUNSEL

Litigation & Advocacy Group and Glenn A. Murphy for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

James S. Link for Defendants and Respondents.

OPINION

MANELLA, J.

In the underlying action for disability discrimination, appellants John and Seth Flowers alleged that they were denied service at respondents’ restaurant due to John Flowers’s service dog. In sustaining a demurrer and granting summary adjudication in respondents’ favor, the trial court concluded that appellants could assert a claim under the Disabled Persons Act (DPA) (Civ. Code, §§ 54-55.3), but not under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act) (Civ. Code, §§ 51, 52).[1] Following those rulings, at appellants’ request, the court dismissed their action with prejudice. We reverse the order of dismissal and remand.

RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Appellants’ complaint, filed September 26, 2012, contains claims under the Unruh Act and the DPA, as well as claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent hiring, training, and supervision of employees.[2] The complaint alleges that respondent Brinda Prasad owns respondent Valley India Café, Inc., which operates a restaurant in Canoga Park. The complaint further alleges that John is a disabled person with a licensed service dog, and that he and his son Seth have been denied service at the restaurant due to the service dog. The complaint sought an award of damages, and injunctive relief under the Unruh Act (§ 52). The complaint was later amended to name respondents Rajendra Prasad, Velayuthan Sappaniapillai, and Prakash Abraham as Doe defendants.

In September 2013, Sappaniapillai and Abraham demurred to the Unruh Act claim, contending that because the DPA -- unlike the Unruh Act – contains express provisions addressing discrimination related to the use of service dogs, appellants could state a discrimination claim only under the DPA. The trial court agreed, concluding that the DPA was more specific regarding disability discrimination than the Unruh Act, and that the statutes

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were inconsistent because the Unruh Act provided for a greater minimum award of damages than the DPA. The court sustained the demurrer to the Unruh Act claim, and afforded only Seth leave to amend. Seth filed no amended complaint.

In March 2014, the other respondents sought summary adjudication regarding the Unruh Act claim on the ground asserted in the demurrer. The trial court granted the motion. In September 2014, appellants requested a dismissal of their claims with prejudice to expedite appellate review of the rulings on the demurrer and grant of summary ...


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