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Moore v. Saniefar

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 28, 2017

RONALD MOORE, Plaintiff,
FATEMAH SANIEFAR, et al., Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, or Alternatively Summary Adjudication (“Defendants' Motion”). (Doc. 90.) For the reasons provided herein, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion, (id.), and DISMISSES all of Plaintiff's claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action involves allegations that features of a restaurant owned or operated by Defendants (the “Building”) violate certain provisions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) and California state law. The Building is “located at 4030 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno, CA” and is owned by “the Bost Trust” to “this day.” (Doc. 89, Ex. 2 ¶ 1.) On April 14, 2014, the Building was occupied by a restaurant “known as ‘Zlfred's.'” (Id. ¶ 2.) “On or about February 1, 2015, ” the Building “was leased to” an individual “who opened a new restaurant named ‘Yem Kabob.'” (Id. ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff asserts that he “suffers from hydrocephalus . . ., degenerative disc disease, and chronic pain syndrome.” (Doc. 89, Ex. 1 at 9.) Plaintiff further asserts that, “[a]s a result of his medical conditions, [he] is substantially limited in his ability to walk” and, as such, qualifies as disabled under the ADA. (Id. at 10.)

         Plaintiff filed the operative Complaint on June 4, 2015. (Doc. 32.) In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he “visited” the Building on April 14, 2014. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that, during this visit, he encountered a series of structural and non-structural barriers. (Id.; see also Id. (describing the barriers Plaintiff allegedly encountered during an April 14, 2014 visit to the Building).) Beyond these barriers that Plaintiff purportedly “personally encountered, ” Plaintiff also alleges that he “is aware of” numerous additional “barriers which exist at the [Building] and relate to his disabilities.” (Id. ¶ 12; see also Id. (providing Plaintiff's description of these additional alleged barriers).)

         In Plaintiff's First Claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the ADA by (1) “denying Plaintiff ‘full and equal enjoyment' and use of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges and accommodations of the [Building], ” (id. ¶ 22); (2) failing to remove the architectural barriers at the Building, an existing facility, (see Id. ¶¶ 23-27); (3) designing and constructing the Building “in a manner that was not readily accessible to the physically disabled public, ” (id. ¶ 30); (4) altering the Building “in a manner that violated the ADA on or before Plaintiff's April 14, 2014 visit” without making “the [Building] readily accessible to the physically disabled public, ” (id. ¶ 33); and (5) “failing to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures at the [Building] at or prior to Plaintiff's April 14, 2014 visit . . . when these modifications were necessary to afford . . . these goods, services, facilities, or accommodations to Plaintiff, ” (id. ¶ 36). The Complaint also includes the following two claims under California state law: (1) Second Claim―a claim that Defendants violated certain provisions of the Unruh Act, including, in part, by acts and omissions that violated the ADA, (see Id. ¶¶ 39- 46); and (2) Third Claim―a claim that Defendants violated provisions of the California Health and Safety Code, (see Id. ¶¶ 47-51). Finally, the Complaint includes the following requests for relief: (1) “[a]n injunction requiring that” Defendant Alireza Saniefar, trustee of the Bost Trust, “make the [Building] fully accessible to Plaintiff under both state and federal accessibility standards;” (2) “[d]eclaratory relief that Defendants violated the ADA at the time of Plaintiff's April 14, 2014 visit to the [Building] for purposes of Unruh Act damages;” (3) “[s]tatutory minimum damages of $4, 000 under section 52(a) of the California Civil Code;” (4) “[a]ttorneys' fees, litigation expense[s], and costs of suit, ” including “attorneys' fees under California Code of Civil Procedure § 1021.5;” and (5) “[i]nterest at the legal rate from the date of the filing of this action.” (Id. at 12.)

         “When Defendants were served with the Complaint, they hired a Certified Access Specialist . . . to [r]eview the [Building].” (Doc. 101, Ex. 1 ¶ 30.) After receiving the assessment from this Certified Access Specialist, “Defendant[s] hired a contractor to address all the issues identified” in the Complaint. (Id. ¶ 31.) Defendants assert that these efforts promptly resulted in the removal of the alleged barriers. (See, e.g., Doc. 97 at 11 (“As soon as Defendants were made aware of issues, they immediately fixed them to achieve compliance.”).) The parties now agree―solely for purposes of Defendants' Motion―that all of the alleged barriers have been removed and the Building is now compliant with the ADA and California state law. (See, e.g., Doc. 90, Ex. 1 at 9 (“[A]ll alleged barriers meet current construction standards under the ADA and California law . . . .”); Doc. 91 at 6 (“[F]or purposes of [Defendants' Motion] only, Plaintiff takes Defendants at their word that they have brought all of the barriers listed in his [C]omplaint into compliance with the codes.”); Doc. 101, Ex. 1 ¶ 15 (providing Plaintiff's statement that it is “[u]ndisputed for purposes” of Defendants' Motion that “[t]here are currently no barriers to disability access at” the restaurant).) Defendant Alireza Saniefar, trustee of the Bost Trust, also filed a declaration in which he states that he “fully intend[s] to make sure that the [Building] remains compliant to the full extent of [his] control and legal ability.” (Doc. 97, Ex. 3 ¶ 4; cf. Doc. 101, Ex. 1 ¶ 32 (providing Plaintiff's assertion that the Bost Trust “has sought to abdicate [his] legal responsibility to monitor compliance on [the] property to the tenant”).)

         Additionally, the Bost Trust “has entered into a 5-year agreement with a” Certified Access Specialist “to check” the property quarterly for compliance. (Doc. 101, Ex. 1 ¶ 33; see also Doc. 97, Ex. 4 at 2 (constituting an agreement between “Bost Trust, c/o Ali Saniefar, Trustee” and the Certified Access Specialist, Kelly Bray, in which Ms. Bray agrees to inspect the property located at “4030 N. Blackstone[, ] Fresno, [CA]” on a quarterly basis between March 2017 and December 2021 “to confirm that the condition of the property complies with the [ADA]”).) Defendants also state that the Bost Trust “has notified the current tenant of the [Building] about what it must and must not do to maintain compliance with disability access laws.” (Doc. 101, Ex. 1 ¶ 34; see also Doc. 97, Ex. 6 at 2-5 (constituting a letter from Defendant Alireza Saniefar, “Trustee, Bost Trust” to “Ammar” at Yem Kabob, 4030 North Blackstone Ave., Fresno, California 93726, in which Defendant Alireza Saniefar states that “Yem Kabob owners, managers and employees need to ensure that” the items listed in an attached list “stay in their current compliant status”); cf. Doc. 101, Ex. 1 ¶ 34 (providing Plaintiff's assertion that “[t]here is no evidence that the [n]otice was ever received by the [t]enant”).)

         Defendants filed Defendants' Motion on November 23, 2016. (Doc. 90.) Plaintiff filed his opposition to Defendants' Motion on December 16, 2016, (Doc. 91), and Defendants filed their reply in support of this motion on February 8, 2017, [1] (Doc. 102). As such, Defendants' Motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.[2]


         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs motions for summary judgment, ” Smith v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., No. 2:12-cv-00656-TLN-CKD, 2013 WL 5718874, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 16, 2013), and provides, in part, that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the court “must draw all reasonable inferences supported by the evidence in favor of the non-moving party and then decide whether any genuine issues of material fact exist.” Guidroz-Brault v. Mo. Pac. R.R. Co., 254 F.3d 825, 829 (9th Cir. 2001). “A fact issue is genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). “A material fact is one that may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable law.” Cotta v. Cty. of Kings, 79 F.Supp.3d 1148, 1156 (E.D. Cal. 2015) (citing Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248).

         “A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)); see, e.g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) (stating that a party seeking summary judgment must support their motion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials”). “The exact nature of this responsibility, however, varies depending on whether the issue on which summary judgment is sought is one in which the movant or the nonmoving party carries the ultimate burden of proof.” Cotta, 79 F.Supp.3d at 1157 (citations omitted). “Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.” Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. On the other hand, a moving party that does not carry “the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial” must “either produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

         “If a moving party fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmoving party has no obligation to produce anything, even if the nonmoving party would have the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial.” Id. at 1102-03 (citations omitted). “In such a case, the nonmoving party may defeat the motion for summary judgment without producing anything.” Id. at 1103 (citation omitted).

         However, “[i]f the moving party meets its initial burden, the non-moving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984 (quoting Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 250). Stated differently, “[i]n order to avoid summary judgment, a non-movant must show a genuine issue of material fact by presenting affirmative evidence from which a jury could find in its favor.” F.T.C. v. Stefanchik, 559 F.3d 924, 929 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 257). “A non-movant's bald assertions or a mere scintilla of evidence in his favor are both insufficient to withstand summary judgment.” Id. (citing Galen v. Cty. of L.A., 477 F.3d 652, 658 (9th Cir. 2007)); see, e.g., Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984 (“Conclusory, speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeat summary judgment.” (citations omitted)); F.T.C. v. Publ'g Clearing House, Inc., 104 F.3d 1168, 1170 (9th Cir. 1997) (“Once the [moving party] has made a prima facie case for summary judgment, the [non-moving party] cannot rely on general denials; [they] must produce significant probative evidence that demonstrates that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial.” (citing Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50)).

         “In judging evidence at the summary judgment stage, the court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence.” Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. “That remains the province of the jury or fact finder.” Cotta, 79 F.Supp.3d at 1157 (citation omitted). “Rather, [the court] draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984 (citing T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630-31 (9th Cir. 1987)). “The evidence presented by the parties must be admissible.” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).


         In Defendants' Motion, Defendants argue that they have remedied the alleged ADA violations, thereby rendering Plaintiff's sole federal claim (the First Claim) moot. (See Doc. 90, Ex. 1 at 8-10.) Defendants then argue that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims. (See Id. at 10-16.) For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees with Defendants' position.

         A. ...

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