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Johnson v. Starbucks Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 26, 2019

STARBUCKS CORPORATION, a Washington Corporation; and DOES 1-10, Defendants.



         Before the court is Plaintiff Scott Johnson's motion to stay proceedings against Defendant Starbucks Corporation (“Starbucks”) pending appeal of two related cases: Johnson v. Blackhawk Centercal (3:17-cv-02454-WHA)(“Centercal”) and Nehemiah Kong v. Mana Investment Company, LLC (8:18-cv-01615-DOC-DFM)(“Mana”). Mot. to Stay (“Mot.”), ECF No. 12, 12-4, 12-5. Defendant opposed Plaintiff's motion and Plaintiff filed a reply. Opp'n, ECF No. 13; Reply, ECF No. 14. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion.[1]


         In November 2018, Plaintiff sued Starbucks seeking damages and injunctive relief under the American with Disabilities Act

         (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code §§ 51-53; penalties under the Unruh Act; and attorneys' fees and costs. Compl. at 8:1-13, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges he encountered two unlawful barriers to access at the Starbucks located at 6711 Madison Avenue in Fair Oaks, California. Compl. at ¶¶ 2-7, 12.

         Plaintiff alleges two violations of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, a transaction counter claim, and a merchandise basket claim. First, Plaintiff argues Defendant's transaction counter violated the ADA standards because the counter was crowded with merchandise and displays, and therefore noncompliant with the clear-counter-width requirement under §§ 904.4 and 904.4.1. Id. at ¶¶ 16, 17, 29-30. Plaintiff also contends a merchandise basket on the floor blocked his counter access, in violation of the required amount clear floor space under § 305.3. Id. at ¶¶ 18, 31-32.

         Plaintiff argues a stay would lead to an efficient resolution of his claims because the cases pending before the Ninth Circuit “involve the same statutory and regulatory challenges” as this case. Mot. at 3:25-36. And because “there [are] no factual dispute[s], ” resolution of the cases on appeal would resolve his current transaction counter claim. Id. Plaintiff argues there is “no new factual information to be uncovered” and there would be “no gain in litigation speed” if his suit continued to judgment without a stay, as the parties have been “unable to resolve the cases piecemeal” and “any result reached in this case would ultimately be appealed by one side or the other” pending resolution of Centercal and Mana. Id. at 10-12, Reply at 2:16-18, ECF No. 14. Plaintiff also argues the issues can be bifurcated by a partial stay. Reply at 3:14-17.

         Defendant argues a stay would unduly postpone resolution as Plaintiff's second claim, the merchandise basket claim, is not addressed by the cases pending appeal. Defendant also argues a stay would be unfairly prejudicial and cause needless delay as Defendant may need to wait years for the resolution of the counter issue before conducting discovery and moving for summary judgment on the merchandise basket claim. Opp'n at 3:13-17, ECF No. 13. Finally, Defendant argues a partial stay may result in double recovery for Plaintiff. Id. at 3:20-15, 4:1-5.

         II. OPINION

         A. Legal Standard

         A court's decision to grant a stay is discretionary, “dependent upon the circumstances of the particular case.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 432 (2009). The movant bears the burden of showing the circumstances justify a stay. Id. at 433-34; see Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 708 (1997). A court may stay proceedings incidental to its power “to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936).

         To determine if a stay should be granted, the court weighs “the competing interests of the parties, considering: (1) the possible damage that may result from the grant of a stay, (2) the hardship or inequity a party may suffer in being required to go forward with the case, and (3) the orderly course of justice.” Wallis v. Centennial Ins. Co., No. 2:08-cv-02558 WBS, 2012 WL 292982, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 31, 2012) (citing CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir. 1962)).

         While judicial economy is a factor, the decision to issue a stay “does not hinge” on case management concerns alone. ASUSTek Comput. Inc. v. Ricoh Co., No. 07-cv-01942 MHP, 2007 WL 4190689, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 21, 2007) (citing Landis, 299 U.S. at 255). Moreover, if there is “‘even a fair possibility' of harm to the opposing party, the moving party ‘must make out a clear case of hardship or inequity in being required to move forward.'” Edwards v. Oportun, Inc., 193 F.Supp.3d 1096, 1101 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (quoting Landis, 299 U.S. at 255.)

         As neither party argues damage would result from a stay, the Court only examines hardship to the parties and the ...

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