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Johnson v. Ssr Group, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 11, 2016

SSR GROUP, INC., Defendant.




         Pending before the Court is Defendant SSR Group, Inc. (“Defendant”)’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Scott Johnson (“Plaintiff”)’s First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). Dkt. No. 28. Plaintiff filed an Opposition (Dkt. No. 31), and Defendant filed a Reply (Dkt. No. 37). Both parties have consented to this Court’s jurisdiction. Dkt. Nos. 20 & 22. The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without oral argument and VACATES the July 14, 2016 hearing. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). Having considered the parties’ positions, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court DENIES Defendant’s Motion for the reasons set forth below. The Court also STAYS the action until the parties complete the mediation process required by General Order No. 56.


         Plaintiff is a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair for mobility. FAC ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 26. He alleges that on at least four occasions in 2015 when he visited Defendant’s convenience store (the “Property”), he encountered barriers to accessibility. Id. ¶¶ 18-48, 143-46. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendant failed to provide accessible parking and a path of travel to the Property. Id. He also identifies other barriers to access, but notes he did not encounter those personally. Id. ¶¶ 49-68, 121-34 (transaction counters and restroom facilities not accessible to persons in wheelchairs);

         ¶¶ 135-42 (merchandise aisles, safety features, and fuel pumps not accessible to persons in wheelchairs). Plaintiff alleges these conditions violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., as well as California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, and California Civil Code §§ 51 and 52.

         Defendant argues it has remediated the violations identified in the FAC and that the Property is now in compliance with the ADA. Mot., Dkt. No. 28-1 at 6-7. Defendant’s Motion is supported by the Declaration of Steven T. Arnold, an Access Compliance Specialist certified by the State of California. See Arnold Decl., Dkt. No. 28-2. Mr. Arnold declares that he assisted Defendant in bringing the Property into compliance with federal and state laws. Id. Having inspected the Property in 2016, Mr. Arnold opines that “with regard to the purported barriers identified by Plaintiff Johnson in his FAC, the Property satisfies all of the standards and requirements set forth in the ADA’s 1991 Standards or ADA 2010 Standards” and that Defendant is “in full compliance” with all ADA requirements “with respect to all of the purported ‘barriers’ identified in Plaintiff Johnson’s FAC.” Id. ¶¶ 58-59. Defendant argues its remediation efforts moot Plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief as there can no longer be a risk of future harm. Because the ADA claim is the sole predicate for federal jurisdiction here, and because the only relief Plaintiff is entitled to under the ADA is injunctive relief, Defendant asks the Court to dismiss the ADA claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(h)(3); it also asks the Court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims and to remand them to state court.[1]

         Plaintiff has not filed a competing declaration from another compliance specialist. Instead, he relies on Mr. Arnold’s declaration to support his arguments that at least some of the barriers identified in the FAC do not currently comply with the ADA. Opp’n, Dkt. No. 31 at 5-12 (citing Arnold Decl. ¶¶ 27-28, 32, 35, 45, 55-56). He further argues that Defendant has not met the burden of demonstrating that the violations that have been remediated, will not recur. Id. at 12-16.


         Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; “[t]hey possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citation omitted). Accordingly, “[i]t is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.” Id.; Chandler v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 598 F.3d 1115, 1122 (9th Cir. 2010). “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) authorizes a party to move to dismiss a lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. A jurisdictional challenge may be facial or factual. Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). Where the attack is facial, the court determines whether the allegations contained in the complaint are sufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction, accepting all material allegations in the complaint as true and construing them in favor of the party asserting jurisdiction. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975). Where the attack is factual, however, “[t]he court need not presume the truthfulness of the plaintiff’s allegations.” Safe Air, 373 F.3d at 1039. In resolving a factual dispute as to the existence of subject matter jurisdiction, a court may review extrinsic evidence beyond the complaint without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment. Id.; McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988) (holding that a court “may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction”).

         Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in a case premised on federal-question jurisdiction is “exceptional.” Sun Valley Gasoline, Inc. v. Ernst Enter., Inc., 711 F.2d 138, 140 (9th Cir. 1983). Jurisdictional dismissal is warranted “where the alleged claim under the constitution or federal statutes clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining federal jurisdiction or where such claim is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.” Safe Air, 373 F.3d at 1039 (quoting Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682-83 (1946)). Jurisdictional dismissal is not warranted when “the jurisdictional issue and substantive issues are so intertwined that the question of jurisdiction is dependent on the resolution of factual issues going to the merits of the action.” Sun Valley Gasoline, 711 F.2d at 139. Jurisdictional and substantive issues are intertwined where “a statute provides the basis for both the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal court and the plaintiff’s substantive claim for relief.” Id.


         A. Jurisdictional Dismissal Is Not ...

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