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Mielo v. Aurora Huts, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 7, 2015

CHRISTOPHER MIELO, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
AURORA HUTS, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Christopher Mielo, brings this action individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated against Defendant Aurora Huts, LLC ("Defendant"), alleging violations of Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et seq. ("ADA").[1] Specifically, he alleges that the parking lots at fourteen (14) properties owned and managed by Defendant contain "access barriers" so as to render Defendant's properties not fully accessible to and independently usable by plaintiff and a putative class of similarly situated disabled individuals who are dependent upon wheelchairs for mobility, because of various identified access barriers that fail to comply with the requirements of the ADA.

Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) challenging Plaintiff's standing to bring this action. In the alternative, Defendant moves for a more Definite Statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). The Motion has been fully briefed by Plaintiff and Defendant. (ECF Nos. 8, 10. 12, and 25).

For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

II. Factual Allegations and Procedural Background

The facts set forth below are derived entirely from the Complaint filed on August 28, 2014. (ECF No. 1).[2] Plaintiff states that he is a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who has a mobility disability and is limited in the major life activity of walking, causing him to be dependent upon a wheelchair for mobility. He states that he is therefore a member of a protected class under the ADA and the regulations implementing the ADA. He has visited Defendant's retail property located at 8609 University Boulevard, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, which is a public accommodation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(F).[3] During this visit, he experienced unnecessary difficulty and risk due to excessively sloped surfaces in a purportedly accessible parking space and access aisle.

He indicates that, on his behalf, investigators examined multiple retail locations owned by Defendant in the Western District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, specifically in Pittsburgh, Cheswick, Natrona Heights, McKeesport, New Stanton, Greensburg, Aliquippa, Baden, Harmony, Butler, and Canonsburg Pennsylvania. The investigators found numerous specified conditions which are in violation of the ADA regulations at each of these locations. Plaintiff asserts that these violations impede his access and use of these facilities. He alleges that Defendant has centralized policies regarding the management and operation of the facilities. Further, he asserts that Defendant does not have a plan or policy that is reasonably calculated to make these facilities fully accessible to and independently usable by individuals with mobility disabilities. Plaintiff intends to return to the facilities to dine and to ascertain whether the facilities remain in violation of the ADA. However, so long as the numerous architectural barriers at the facilities continue to exist, he will be deterred from doing so.

Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (b)(6) asserts that Plaintiff has failed to plead allegations sufficient to establish standing this matter. Further, Defendant argues that to the extent the court determines that Plaintiff has standing, his case should be limited to the one location that Plaintiff has personally visited. (ECF No. 7), at ¶¶ 1, 2.

III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) permits a defendant to move for dismissal of a complaint if the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case. Among other things, a defendant may challenge the court's subject matter jurisdiction based on the plaintiff's lack of standing. ACLU-NJ v. Township of Wall, 246 F.3d 258, 261 (3d Cir. 2001). For the purposes of constitutional standing, a plaintiff must show: (1) that he or she has suffered an injury in fact-that is, an invasion of a legally protected interest which is concrete and particularized, and actual or imminent rather than conjectural or hypothetical; (2) that there is a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, such that the injury fairly is traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, rather than the result of an independent action of some third party not before the court; and (3) that it is likely the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision of the court. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). Absent standing, and by extension subject matter jurisdiction, the court does not possess the power to decide the case, and any disposition it renders is a nullity. Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Northwest Airlines, 673 F.2d 700, 711 (3d Cir. 1982).

A defendant may challenge a court's subject matter jurisdiction with either a facial or factual attack. Gould Electronics Inc. v. U.S., 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000). In a facial attack, the defendant contests the sufficiency of the well-pleaded allegations insofar as they provide a basis for the court's exercise of subject matter jurisdiction; as under Rule 12(b)(6), the court the court must treat the complaint's well-pleaded jurisdictional facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. NE Hub Partners, L.P. v. CNG Transmission Corp., 239 F.3d 333, 341 (3d Cir. 2001); Cunningham v. Lenape Regional High Dist. Bd. of Educ., 492 F.Supp.2d 439, 446-47 (D.N.J. 2007). Dismissal pursuant to a facial attack "is proper only when the claim clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or is wholly insubstantial and frivolous." Kehr Packages v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1408-09 (3d Cir. 1991) (internal quotation omitted).

In a factual attack, on the other hand, the defendant challenges the factual basis underlying the court's subject matter jurisdiction with extrinsic evidence, essentially making the argument that the allegations supportive of jurisdiction are not true. Cunningham, 492 F.Supp.2d at 447. Because this Court must be satisfied at all times that it has the power to hear the case, it "may consider evidence outside the pleadings" "to resolve factual issues bearing on jurisdiction." Gould Electronics, 220 F.3d at 176; Gotha v. U.S., 115 F.3d 176, 179 (3d Cir. 1997); Int'l Ass'n of Machinists, 673 F.2d at 711. Once the defendant presents extrinsic evidence contesting the jurisdictional facts set forth in the complaint, the court must permit the plaintiff to respond. Gould Electronics, 220 F.3d at 177. "The court may then determine jurisdiction by weighing the evidence presented by the parties, " " evaluating for itself the merits of the jurisdictional claims." Id .; Mortensen v. First Federal Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977) ...


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