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Huynh v. Bracamontes

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 12, 2016

TINA HUYNH, Plaintiff,
v.
CELIA BRACAMONTES, individually and dba PRISCILLA’S SALA DE BELLEZA; SANTIAGO MARTINEZ, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO. 9

          HOWARD R. LLOYD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Tina Huynh (“Huynh”) visited Priscilla’s Sala de Belleza, a beauty salon in San Jose, to have her hair done. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. Huynh is the conservator and primary caregiver for her adult daughter, who is physically disabled and uses a wheelchair. Id. Huynh brought her daughter to the salon, but could not locate a wheelchair-accessible parking spot. She dropped her daughter off at a relative’s home before returning to the salon alone. Id. at 3.

         Huynh therefore sues salon owner Celia Bracamontes (“Bracamontes”) and Bracamontes’s ex-husband Santiago Martinez (“Martinez”) (collectively “Defendants”). Huynh alleges violations of: (1) the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) California Civil Code § 51 (“the Unruh Act”); and (3) § 19955 of California’s Health and Safety Code. Id. at 4-8. Each party has consented to magistrate-judge jurisdiction. Dkt. Nos. 12, 15. Defendants move to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Dkt. No. 9-1.

         Legal Standard

         A party may challenge subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) “on the face of the pleadings[.]” Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003). A court evaluates a facial attack by presuming that material allegations are true and then deciding whether those allegations show a lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction. Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004). Under Article III of the United States Constitution, federal courts have jurisdiction to decide only actual cases or controversies, and persons have standing to sue only if (1) they have suffered an “injury-in-fact” that is both “actual and imminent” and “concrete and particularized;” (2) the injury is “fairly traceable” to the Defendants’ conduct; and (3) a favorable decision by the court will likely redress the alleged injury. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). “[T]he alleged harm must be actual or imminent, not ‘conjectural’ or ‘hypothetical.’” Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155 (1990). A “lack of Article III standing requires dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).” Maya v. Centex Corp., 658 F.3d 1060, 1067 (9th Cir. 2011).

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims in the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal is appropriate where there is no cognizable legal theory or there are insufficient facts alleged to support a cognizable legal theory. Id. (citing Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). The court assumes the truth of factual allegations and construes them in the light most favorable to the claimant. Id. But the court may disregard conclusions not supported by underlying factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663-64 (2009). The court then draws upon its “experience and common sense” to answer a “context-specific” question: do the alleged facts support a plausible claim? Id. A court may dismiss a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff does not “fall within the zone of interests protected by the law invoked, ” Lexmark Int’l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1377, 1388 (2014); Maya v. Centex Corp., 658 F.3d 1060, 1067 (9th Cir. 2011).[1] For a court considering this type of dismissal, “the central question is whether [a plaintiff] alleges injuries to precisely the sorts of . . . interests the [statute] protects.” Ray Charles Found. v. Robinson, 795 F.3d 1109, 1123 (9th Cir. 2015).

         Discussion

         Huynh claims her inability to enjoy the salon with her daughter constitutes an “injury-in-fact” that is both “actual and imminent” and “concrete and particularized.” Lujan, 504 U.S. 555 at 560. The court agrees; there is nothing “conjectural” or “hypothetical” about Huynh’s claim that she is currently “deterred from visiting the [salon] with her daughter, ” Dkt. No. 1 at 3. Huynh’s injury is also “fairly traceable” to Defendants’ conduct. Business owners are responsible for their business’s compliance with the ADA and the salon concedes it controls the configuration of its parking lot. Dkt. No. 13 at 5-6 (describing past modifications). Finally, the injunction Huynh seeks is a remedy “likely” to “redress[]” the alleged injury, as it would correct any ADA deficiencies in the parking lot and allow Huynh and her daughter to access the salon together. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561. Huynh therefore meets the constitutional minimum requirement for standing; the court denies Defendants’ motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction.

         The court now considers Defendants’ argument that Huynh’s claims should be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Huynh does not claim to be disabled. Instead, she bases her ADA claim on the fact “that she cannot have her hair done at the [s]alon while enjoying the companionship of her daughter.” Dkt. No. 11 at 2. This is an “associational discrimination” claim. See George v. AZ Eagle TT Corp., 961 F.Supp.2d 971, 973-76 (D. Ariz. 2013). The parties agree that a plaintiff pleading associational discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(1)(E) “must allege some specific, direct, and separate injury as a result of association with a disabled individual.” Id. at 974; Dkt. Nos. 11 at 4, 13 at 4. The court is satisfied Huynh has done so here and that she is explicitly within the “zone of interests” protected by the ADA.

         To determine whether a plaintiff falls within the “zone of interests” protected by a specific statutory provision, a court “must determine the provision’s meaning, using traditional principles of statutory interpretation.” Lexmark, 134 S.Ct. at 1388. Courts begin with the statutory text, Paul Revere Ins. Grp. v. United States, 500 F.3d 957, 962 (9th Cir. 2007), and “must presume that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there.” Connecticut Nat. Bank v. Germain, 503 U.S. 249, 253-54 (1992). “When the words of a statute are unambiguous, [this] first canon is also the last: judicial inquiry is complete.” Id. at 254. The ADA’s Title III is clear: it is unlawful “to exclude or otherwise deny equal goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, accommodations, or other opportunities to an individual or entity because of the known disability of an individual with whom the individual or entity is known to have a relationship or association.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(1)(E). This provision unambiguously protects those who have a “relationship or association” with a disabled person. Huynh is therefore “within the class of plaintiffs whom Congress authorized to sue, ” Lexmark, 134 S.Ct. at 1387.

         Courts resolving motions to dismiss on similar facts have accordingly refused to dismiss § 12182(b)(1)(E) claims brought by friends and relatives. In George v. AZ Eagle TT Corp., a father sued the operator of a shopping mall after visiting with his disabled son and encountering access ramps that allegedly violated the ADA. 961 F.Supp.2d 971, 973-76 (D. Ariz. 2013). The father claimed injury from his inability “to access [the] shopping center with his disabled son.” Id. at 975. The district court concluded that the father had “properly alleged an associational discrimination claim” with a “separate and distinct injury” and denied the mall operator’s motion to dismiss. Id. at 975-76. In Wright v. Macerich Westcor Mgmt., LLC, a long-term companion and caretaker for a disabled man sued the operator of a shopping center after the pair allegedly encountered physical barriers that prevented the man from accessing the facility using his wheelchair. 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132889 at *1-*2 (D. Ariz. 2009). While she could enjoy the “goods and services” of the shopping center, the plaintiff claimed the center’s operator denied her the “right to enjoy going to the mall with her longtime companion, a privilege enjoyed by non-disabled couples.” Id. at *12-*13. The court agreed, held that the plaintiff had sufficiently alleged an injury “distinct” from that of her disabled companion, and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. Id. at *13.

         Defendants attempt to distinguish these cases by arguing Huynh “was not attempting to share or participate in a joint experience, ” Dkt. No. 13 at 5. But Huynh alleges exactly that: she wanted to get her hair cut while enjoying the “companionship of her daughter, ” Dkt. No. 11 at 2. The court is not persuaded there is a legally significant difference between going to a shopping mall and entering a hair salon. The plaintiffs in George and Wright did not sue the shopping mall operators so they could buy specific products-they sued so they could access and enjoy the malls along with their disabled companions. Like the plaintiffs in George and Wright, Huynh is entitled to access and enjoy the salon with her daughter, and that right does not depend on her daughter seeking a haircut at the same time her mother does.

         The court is unconvinced that it will “impermissibly expand” the scope of associational discrimination claims if it follows case law like George and Wright. Dkt. No. 13 at 5. Congress created an associational claim under § 12182(b)(1)(E) as part of a statutory framework that addresses a “serious and pervasive social problem”-society’s “historical” tendency to “isolate and segregate” people with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12101(a)(2). The undersigned is satisfied that the ADA gives Huynh an enforceable right to jointly access public accommodations along with her disabled daughter, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(1)(E), and that Congress created this right not just so that people like Huynh may enjoy the company of their children in public, but also so that people like Huynh’s daughter will thereby be less likely to suffer isolation from society, 42 U.S.C. § 12101(a)(2). The court denies Defendants’ motion to dismiss Huynh’s ADA claim.

         Huynh’s second claim arises under California’s Unruh Act. The court has discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Huynh’s related state law claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Defendants understandably offer no arguments specific to Huynh’s Unruh Act claim, Dkt. No. 9-1 at 6-7, as “a violation of the ADA is, per se, a violation of the Unruh Act, ” Lentini v. California Ctr. for the Arts, Escondido, 370 F.3d 837, 847 (9th Cir. 2004); Cal. Civil Code ยง 51(f). Because Huynh alleges a plausible claim under the ADA, she ...


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