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Rios v. New York and Company, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 16, 2017

ROY RIOS, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK & COMPANY, INC.; and DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS [20]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Roy Rios initiated this action against Defendant New York & Company, Inc. on May 24, 2017, in Los Angeles County Superior Court. (Compl., ECF No. 15-1.) On June 23, 2017, Defendant removed this case to federal court. (ECF No. 1.) On September 25, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, which the parties have fully briefed. (ECF Nos. 20-23, 25-26.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion.[1]

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff is blind and requires screen reading software to read and access content on the internet. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Screen reading software vocalizes visual information contained on a computer screen. (Id. ¶ 9.) Such software provides “the only method by which a blind person may independently access the internet.” (Id.) If websites are not designed to be read by screen reading software, then blind individuals are unable to fully access websites and the information they provide. (Id.) Adherence to the recommendations of version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”), published by a website standards organization, would allow Plaintiff and other blind or vision-impaired individuals to easily navigate websites. (Id. ¶ 10.) But Plaintiff does not allege, or request, that Defendant comply with these particular guidelines. (See id.; see also id., Prayer for Relief ¶¶ 1-2.)

         Defendant is a retailer that provides “important goods and/or services” to the public through its brick-and-mortar locations and through its website. (See Compl. ¶ 5.) Defendant operates stores that are places of public accommodation within the meaning of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”). (Id.) Further, Defendant's stores provide services through Defendant's website, www.nyandcompany.com, which grants customers access to: “a location locator, descriptions of its products and services, and many other benefits related to these facilities and services.” (Id.) Defendant's website is maintained in such a way that blind and visually-impaired individuals are unable to gain equal access to the website because the website is not readable by screen reading software. (See Id. ¶¶ 1, 12-15.) As a consequence of the barriers he has encountered, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant deters Plaintiff “on a regular basis from accessing Defendant's website[, ]” and “from visiting Defendant's store locations.” (Id. ¶ 4.)

         In sum, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's policies and practices deny blind individuals, like himself, access to the services and information made available to the public through its website, and thus access to its physical locations. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff brings a claim pursuant to the Unruh Civil Rights Act (the “Unruh Act”), California Civil Code Section 51 et seq., and uses the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. as a predicate violation. (See generally Compl.) Defendant argues that Plaintiff's lawsuit should be dismissed based on due process and primary jurisdiction grounds, or alternatively because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under the Unruh Act. (See generally Mem. of P. & A., ECF No. 20-1.)

         III. REQUESTS FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE

         In support of his Opposition, Plaintiff requests that the Court take judicial notice of various court documents from the case Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., No. 16-23020-Civ-Scola. (Exhibits 1-5, ECF No. 21.) Defendant filed a timely objection, and contends that the Court should deny Plaintiff's request because Defendant's due process argument is distinct from the argument put forth in Gil. (ECF No. 23.) Despite Defendant's objection, the Court grants Plaintiff's request. See, e.g., Montantes v. Inventure Foods, No. CV-14-1128-MWF (RZx), 2014 WL 3305578, at *2 (C.D. Cal. July 2, 2014) (“Courts . . . take judicial notice of proceedings in other courts . . . if those proceedings have a direct relation to matters at issue.”) (internal quotations and citations omitted). While the due process arguments in Gil may be slightly different, they are relevant to the issues raised in Plaintiff's Opposition.

         Next, Defendant requests that the Court take judicial notice of several court orders and records in support of its Motion. (Exhibits A-C, ECF No. 20.) The Court grants Defendant's request to take judicial notice of Exhibits A-C, which are court orders from two cases in the Central District and an amicus brief filed by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). Defendant also requests that the Court take judicial notice of its website. (Exhibit D, ECF No. 20.) However, Defendant may not use this request to prove that its website is compliant with the ADA. See Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 690 (9th Cir. 2001) (stating that judicial notice of public records is limited to the existence of the documents, not the truth of their contents). Accordingly the Court takes judicial notice of the fact that Defendant's website exists, but not the truth of its contents. See id.

         IV. LEGAL STANDARD

         After the pleadings are closed, but within such time as to not delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings. Fed. R. Civ P. 12(c). The standard applied on a Rule 12(c) motion is essentially the same as that applied on Rule 12(b)(6) motions; a judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when, even if all the allegations in the complaint are true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Milne ex rel. Coyne v. Stephen Slesinger, Inc., 430 F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2005); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).”) (citations omitted). When ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a court should construe the facts in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and the movant must clearly establish that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved. McGlinchy v. Shell Chem. Co., 845 F.2d 802, 810 (9th Cir. 1988). However, “conclusory allegations without more are insufficient to defeat a motion [for judgment on the pleadings].” Id.

         V. DISCUSSION

         In part, Plaintiff premises his claim on Defendant's alleged violation of the ADA, which, in turn, constitutes a violation of the Unruh Act. (Compl. ¶ 21.) Because a violation of any right under the ADA is, per se, a violation of the Unruh Act, the Court begins its analysis by determining whether Plaintiff adequately pleads a violation of the ADA. See Cal. Civ. Code § 51(f) (“[a] violation of the right of any individual under the [ADA] . . . shall also constitute a violation of this section.”); see also Reed v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., No. CV 17-3877-MWF (SKx), 2017 WL 4457508, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 3, 2017) (same).

         A. The ADA's Requirements for Internet Accessibility

         1. The ADA ...


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