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Johnson v. Tackett

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 5, 2017

SCOTT JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
LAURIE ELIZABETH TACKETT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

         A disabled plaintiff sues a restaurant based on its allegedly inaccessible parking lot. Defendants move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court submitted the case without a hearing. ECF No. 19. As discussed below, the court DENIES defendants' motion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff filed the operative complaint on October 10, 2016. Compl., ECF No. 1. The complaint alleges defendants violated: (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (ADA); and (2) the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code sections 51- 53. See generally Compl.

         The following factual allegations give rise to plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff is a level C-5 quadriplegic who has trouble using his hands and cannot walk. Compl. ¶ 1. He uses a wheelchair and has a specially equipped van. Id.

         Defendants Laurie Elizabeth Tackett and Shawn D. Tackett own Burger Barn, a restaurant in Pollock Pines, California. Id. ¶¶ 2-16. On several occasions, including in February 2015, May 2016, June 2016, and July 2016, plaintiff ate at Burger Barn. Id. ¶ 21. When attempting to park, plaintiff encountered parking-lot related barriers. Id. ¶ 24. First, the parking space for persons with disabilities was 90 inches wide, but the access aisle was just 86 inches wide. Id. Second, the parking space's dividing lines were faded and barely discernable. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff contends he encountered these barriers at least twice, in February 2015 and May 2016. Id. ¶¶ 32, 33. Plaintiff alleges these barriers have caused him difficulty and frustration and will deter him from visiting in the future. Id. ¶ 38.[1]

         Defendants contend they fixed their parking lot to comply with the ADA and the Unruh Act after receiving plaintiff's complaint. Mot. 2, ECF No. 14-1. Specifically, they contend they repaved and restriped the accessible parking space. Id. at 3. After modification, defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See generally Id. Defendants specifically contend plaintiff lacks standing and his claims are moot. Id. at 2-5. Plaintiff opposed. Opp'n, ECF No. 15.

         Because standing and mootness both pertain to a federal court's Article III subject-matter jurisdiction, they are properly raised in a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Cases are presumed to fall outside a federal court's limited jurisdiction until proven otherwise. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377-78 (1994). Either party may challenge subject matter jurisdiction, or the court can address the matter sua sponte. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); see also Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583-84 (1999). A Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack may be either facial or factual. White, 227 F.3d at 1242. In a facial attack, the court assumes the complaint's allegations are true and assesses jurisdiction in a light most favorable to plaintiff. See Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004).

         By contrast, a factual attack challenges the veracity of plaintiff's jurisdictional facts, or contends a necessary jurisdictional fact is absent. Id. The allegations are not presumed to be true and “the district court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction.” McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988). “Once the moving party has converted the motion to dismiss into a factual motion by presenting affidavits or other evidence properly brought before the court, the party opposing the motion must furnish affidavits or other evidence necessary to satisfy its burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction.” Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., 343 F.3d 1036, 1040 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003).

         Jurisdictional dismissal is “exceptional” and warranted only “‘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 for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039 (quoting Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682- 83 (1946)). The Ninth Circuit has held that a “[j]urisdictional finding of genuinely disputed facts is inappropriate 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 an action.'” Sun Valley Gasoline, Inc. v. Ernst Enters., Inc., 711 F.2d 138, 139 (9th Cir. 1983) (quoting Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1983)). “Normally, the question of jurisdiction and the merits of an action will be considered 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. (quotation omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants launch a factual attack on jurisdiction. McCarthy, 850 F.2d 560. To support their motion to dismiss based on standing and mootness, defendants contend they remedied the barriers giving rise to plaintiff's claims, relying on their own affidavit testimony. Mot. at 2; Tackett Decl. ¶¶ 7-8, ECF No. 14-3. The court discusses the standing and mootness arguments in turn.

         A. ...


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