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Heinzl v. Boston Market Corporation

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

November 7, 2014

SARAH HEINZL, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
BOSTON MARKET CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT C. MITCHELL, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Sarah Heinzl, brings this action individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated against Defendant, Boston Market Corporation (Boston Market), alleging violations of Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 to 12189 (ADA). Specifically, she alleges that Boston Market's facilities are not fully accessible to and independently usable by individuals who use wheelchairs for mobility, as she does, because of various barriers in the parking lot.

Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), challenging Plaintiff's standing to bring this action. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

Facts

Plaintiff states that she is a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who has a mobility disability and is limited in the major life activity of walking, causing her to be dependent upon a wheelchair for mobility. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 15.) She has visited Defendant's property located at 978 Greentree Road in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (the "Restaurant"). During this visit, she experienced unnecessary difficulty and risk due to excessive slopes in a purportedly accessible parking space and access aisle. She indicates that, on her behalf, investigators examined the Restaurant and 27 other retail Boston Market locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland and found the following violations: 1) the surfaces of one or more access aisles and one or more purportedly accessible parking spaces had slopes exceeding 1:48 (i.e., 2.1%); 2) a curb ramp extended into an access aisle; 3) portions of the route to the entrance were broken, i.e. not "firm, stable, and slip resistant"; 4) no spaces were designated as "van accessible"; 5) one or more purportedly accessible parking spaces was not marked with required signs; 6) a curb ramp along the route to the entrance had a flare with a slope exceeding 1:10 (i.e., 10.0%); 7) a grate in the surface of a purportedly accessible parking space would allow the passage of a ½ inch sphere; 8) no access aisle was provided adjacent to one or more purportedly accessible spaces; 9) a portion of the route to the store entrance had a cross slope exceeding 1:48 (i.e., 2.1%); 10) a curb ramp located in the route to the building entrance had a running slope exceeding 1:12 (i.e., 8.3%); 11) the purportedly accessible spaces were not the spaces nearest to the accessible route; 12) signs designating spaces as "accessible" were mounted less than 60 inches above the finished surface of the parking lot; 13) one or more access aisles adjacent to purportedly accessible parking spaces were less than 60 inches wide; and 14) the asphalt in a purportedly accessible parking space was broken and uneven, i.e., not "firm, stable, and slip resistant." (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.)

Plaintiff indicates that she is a resident of the Brookline neighborhood located in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh; that she frequently travels to Robinson Township for shopping, entertainment and doctors' appointments; and that she travels through the neighborhood of Greentree, passing by the Restaurant at 978 Greentree Road. She also travels through the Greentree neighborhood frequently to visit a family friend in Crafton. (Am. Compl. ¶ 23.) She estimates that she has dined at the Restaurant three to four times per year in the past few years and states that she intends to return to the Restaurant as it is the closest and most convenient to her residence, but that numerous architectural barriers deter her from doing so. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24-25.)

Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this action on July 24, 2014. On August 26, 2014, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, challenging Plaintiff's standing to bring this action. On September 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 9).

Federal question jurisdiction is based on the ADA claim, 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a). Plaintiff alleges that the cited violations constitute "a failure to remove architectural barriers" in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv) and a failure to alter, design or construct accessible facilities after the effective date of the ADA in violation of § 12183(a)(1) and the appropriate regulations, which will deter her from returning to Defendant's facilities and that, without injunctive relief, she will be unable to fully access Defendant's facilities in violation of her rights under the ADA. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 35-40.)

She also brings this action on behalf of all others similarly situated pursuant to Rule 23(a) and (b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See seeks a declaratory judgment that Defendant is in violation of the specific requirements of Title III of the ADA and its implementing regulations, a permanent injunction directing Defendant to take all steps necessary to remove the architectural barriers and bring its facilities into ADA compliance, an order certifying the class she proposes and naming her as class representative and appointing her counsel as class counsel, payment of costs of suit, payment of reasonable attorney's fees and any other relief the Court deems just, equitable and appropriate. (Am. Compl. at 17.)

On October 3, 2014, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11), to which Plaintiff responded on October 24, 2014 (ECF No. 18). Defendant filed a reply brief on November 4, 2014 (ECF No. 20). Plaintiff filed a surreply brief on November 6, 2014 (ECF No. 22).

Standard of Review

"A motion to dismiss for want to standing is... properly brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), because standing is a jurisdictional matter." Ballentine v. United States, 486 F.3d 806, 810 (3d Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). The Court of Appeals has explained that:

In evaluating whether a complaint adequately pleads the elements of standing, courts apply the standard of reviewing a complaint pursuant to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim: "Court[s] must accept as true all material allegations set forth in the complaint, and must construe those facts in favor of the nonmoving party." Ballentine, 486 F.3d at 810 (citing Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975)); see also Baldwin v. Univ. of Pittsburgh Med. Ctr., 636 F.3d 69, 73 (3d Cir. 2011) ("A dismissal for lack of statutory standing is effectively the same as a dismissal for failure to state a claim."). The Supreme Court most recently explained this standard in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 ...

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