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Galvan v. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S., Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 20, 2017

Johnny Galvan, et al.
v.
Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S., Inc.

         Proceedings:[In Chambers] Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Remand

          Present: The Honorable ANDRE BIROTTE JR., United States District Judge

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: [In Chambers] Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Remand

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs Johnny Galvan, Sandy Mumma, and Stavros Patsalos' (collectively, "Plaintiffs") Motion for Remand, filed February 13, 2017. (Dkt. No. 15.) Defendant Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S., Inc. ("Disney" or "Defendant") filed an opposition on February 27, 2017, and Plaintiffs filed a reply on March 6, 2017. (Dkt. Nos. 18, 19.) Having considered the arguments and materials submitted, the Court deems this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument and VACATES the hearing set for March 20, 2017. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action arises from a change in disability policies at Disney parks. Before October 2013, Disney accommodated guests with special needs by issuing "Guest Assistance Cards ("GACs"). With these cards "Plaintiffs knew they could expect minimal manageable waits at the various attractions of interest." (Notice of Removal Ex. A, Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 19.) Though not well-articulated in the Complaint, it appears park employees would accommodate these cardholders by allowing them to forego traditional lines to get on rides or visit other park attractions.

         In October 2013, Disney replaced Guest Assistance Cards with Disability Access Service (“DAS”) cards. It is not clear from the Complaint what guests were required to do to obtain GACs before October 2013, but to obtain a DAS card thereafter, guests were required to report to Guest Relations to have a photograph taken. Plaintiffs contend that including this added wait time with Guest Relations to the wait times they would have to endure in the regular lines at park attractions necessarily resulted in lengthier wait times in the aggregate for disabled guests than for non-disabled guests. (Id. at ¶ 23.) As Plaintiffs calculate, “[i]f a disabled person waits one hour at Guest Relations to obtain the DAS card, then complies with the DAS and rides one ride which has a one-hour wait time, the disabled person's wait time is two hours, while the non-disabled person's wait time is only one hour.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff Johnny Galvan has a diagnosed anxiety disorder and back disability, which prevent him from “waiting or biding time without cognitive and visible goal impairments occurring.” He and his wife, Plaintiff Sandy Mumma, visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in January, April, and May 2015. Plaintiffs contend they were “forced to leave the park” because they were not allowed “to get a pass to go through the entrance line of the ride at the exit” (which it appears, though it is unclear from the Complaint, they were permitted to do with GACs), and because Galvan was unable to wait in line. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

         Plaintiff Stavros Patsalos, who suffers from cerebral palsy, and during the time of his visit to Walt Disney Park in March, 2015, he was also recovering from knee surgery and therefore was “incapable of waiting in line for an extended period of time.” (Id. at ¶ 27.) In his previous experience at the park, Patsalos was able to get a pass to go to the front of the lines for rides or get appointments to be able to get on a particular ride at a particular time to avoid wait times. During his visit in 2015, Patsalos was not afforded these accommodations and “left the park.” (Id.) All three Plaintiffs claim they suffered emotional distress as a result of the treatment they received at Disney parks. (Id. at ¶¶ 31, 35.)

         As a result, Plaintiffs allege claims for violations of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-39.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         As courts of limited jurisdiction, federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A suit filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A removed action must be remanded to state court if the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant may remove an action from state court to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction if “none of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Diversity jurisdiction requires that the parties be in complete diversity and the amount in controversy exceed $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         The amount in controversy is the total “amount at stake in the underlying litigation.” Theis Research, Inc. v. Brown & Bain, 400 F.3d 659, 662 (9th Cir. 2005). “[I]n assessing the amount in controversy, a court must ‘assume that the allegations of the complaint are true and assume that a jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff on all claims made in the complaint.'” Campbell v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 471 Fed.App'x 646, 648 ...


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