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Johnson v. Sweet Spark, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 23, 2019

SCOTT JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SWEET SPARK, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          WILLIAM B.SHUBB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Scott Johnson, an individual with a disability, initiated this action against defendant Sweet Spark, Inc. (“Sweet Spark”), seeking damages under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (“Unruh Act”), California Civil Code §§ 51-53; injunctive relief under the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, and the Unruh Act; and attorney's fees and costs. Before the court is plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

         I. Facts

         Plaintiff is a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair for mobility and has a specially equipped van. (Decl. of Scott Johnson (“Johnson Decl.”) ¶¶ 2-3 (Docket No. 24-5).) Plaintiff alleges that on at least five different occasions between March 2017 and September 2017, he visited Fix Auto Sacramento (“Fix Auto”) at 4220 Stockton Boulevard, Sacramento, California. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 13.) At all relevant times, Sweet Spark owned, and presently owns, Fix Auto. (Def's Resp. to Pl.'s Req. for Admis. 2-5 (Docket No. 24-12).)

         Plaintiff alleges that during these visits, he encountered access barriers that denied him full and equal access to Fix Auto and caused him difficulty and frustration. (Johnson Decl. ¶¶ 6-12.) First, he contends there were no ADA compliant parking spaces available at Fix Auto during his visits. (Id. ¶ 6-11.) In part, plaintiff alleges that the parking space reserved for persons with disabilities had no access aisle, improper signage, and faded markings. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10, 14.) Second, plaintiff alleges in his complaint that Fix Auto's bathroom presents an access barrier because its path of access is obstructed by stairs and it lacks fixtures that are ADA compliant, although he admits he did not personally encounter this barrier. (Compl. ¶¶ 39, 42-51 (Docket No. 1).) Plaintiff claims he has been deterred from returning and patronizing Fix Auto because of these barriers. (Johnson Decl. ¶ 13.)

         On October 4, 2017, plaintiff's investigator, Evens Louis, conducted his first investigation of Fix Auto. (Decl. of Evens Louis (“Louis Decl.”) ¶¶ 2-3. (Docket No. 24-8).) He found Fix Auto's accessible parking space and bathroom were not compliant with ADA or California Building Code (“CBC”) standards. (Id. ¶¶ 6-12.) On January 11, 2018, Louis returned to Fix Auto and concluded that, while Fix Auto had repainted the parking space, it still did not conform to CBC or ADA requirements. (Id. ¶¶ 14-17.) His declaration does not include a second evaluation of Fix Auto's bathroom. (See generally id.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is proper “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). A material fact is one that could affect the outcome of the suit, and a genuine issue is one that could permit a reasonable jury to enter a verdict in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Any inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         B. Americans with Disabilities Act

         To prevail on an ADA claim, the plaintiff must show that (1) he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) the defendant is a private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation; and (3) the plaintiff was denied public accommodations by the defendant because of his disability.[1] Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 730 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Plaintiff has established, and defendant does not contest, the first two elements. Whether plaintiff was denied access to a public accommodation because of his disability is the only element in dispute.

         1. Parking Lot Violations

         Plaintiff cites the CBC and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (“ADAAG”) to support his ...


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