United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
John and Maureen Mirabella and their son, Connor Mirabella,
brought suit claiming that Defendants William Penn Charter
School and Overseers of the Public Schools failed to
accommodate Connor's Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder (“ADHD”). The Complaint alleges
violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et
seq., as well as breach of contract, breach of the implied
covenant of good faith and fair dealing and negligent
infliction of emotional distress.
before me are the parties' cross-motions for partial
summary judgment. Defendants seek summary judgment on the ADA
claim, arguing that they are exempt from the statute as a
religious organization. Defendants also assert that, because
Connor has graduated high school, he lacks standing to pursue
his ADA claim and/or the claim is moot. In their motion,
Plaintiffs urge that the undisputed evidence establishes that
Defendants do not qualify as a religious organization and,
therefore, are subject to the ADA's requirements.
reasons that follow, I conclude that Plaintiffs have failed
to demonstrate that Connor Mirabella has standing to pursue
the ADA claim and, relatedly, the ADA claim is also moot.
Because I lack subject matter jurisdiction to entertain the
ADA claim, I will not reach the parties' arguments
regarding the religious exemption issue and will dismiss the
remaining state law claims without prejudice.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
I will decide the instant motions on standing and mootness
grounds, I only note the facts pertinent to those issues.
Connor was enrolled at William Penn Charter School for three
academic years, 2011-2014, in the ninth, tenth and eleventh
grades. Plaintiffs' contend that, by engaging in a
pattern of discriminatory conduct related to Connor's
disabilities, Defendants “constructively
expelled” Connor at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
(Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 1,
153-54; Pls.' Resp. to Defs.' Mot. p. 9.)
time did Connor seek to re-enroll at William Penn Charter
School. During the 2015-2016 school year, Connor participated
in the University of Pennsylvania's Young Scholars
program for high school credits and graduated from the North
Penn School District in 2016. (Defs.' Statement of
Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 3, 154.) Thereafter, Connor was
accepted at St. Joseph's University, where he is
currently enrolled. (Id. at ¶ 154.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating that there are no genuine issues of material
fact and that judgment is appropriate as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once a properly supported motion for
summary judgment has been made, the burden shifts to the
non-moving party, who must set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986). An issue is “genuine” if a reasonable
jury could rule in favor of the non-moving party based on the
evidence presented. Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455
F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006). The non-moving party cannot
avert summary judgment with conclusory, self-serving
statements, but rather must cite to specific facts in the
record. Kirleis v. Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote,
P.C., 560 F.3d 156, 161 (3d Cir. 2009); Fed.R.Civ.P.
motion for summary judgment, the court considers the evidence
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Courts may not make
credibility determinations at the summary judgment stage.
Boyle v. Cnty. of Allegheny, Pa., 139 F.3d 386, 393
(3d Cir. 1998) (citing Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets,
Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., Inc., 998 F.2d 1224, 1230
(3d Cir. 1993) cert. denied, 510 U.S. 994 (1993)).
The same burdens and standards apply with regard to
cross-motions for summary judgment. Appelmans v. City of
Phila., 826 F.2d 214, 216 (3d Cir. 1987).
considering the merits of this case, I must determine whether
a “case or controversy” exists, such that this
Court has jurisdiction under Article III. Lujan v.
Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). A
plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that he has
Article III standing. ZF Meritor, LLC v. Eaton
Corp., 696 F.3d 254, 301 (3d Cir. 2012). To satisfy this
burden, a plaintiff must show:
(1) that he is under a threat of suffering an injury in fact
that is concrete and particularized; the threat must be
actual and imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) a
causal connection between the injury and the conduct
complained of; and (3) a likelihood that a favorable judicial
decision will prevent or redress the injury.
Id. (citing Summers v. Earth Island Inst.,
555 U.S. 488, 493 (2009)) (internal quotation marks
omitted)). “[E]ach element [of standing] must be
supported in the same way as any other matter on which the
plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e. with the manner and
degree of evidence required at the successive stages of
litigation.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561.
injunctive relief is sought in connection with a past wrong,
a plaintiff does not have standing “absent a showing of
irreparable injury, a requirement that cannot be met where
there is no showing of any real or immediate threat that the
plaintiff will be wronged again.” City of Los
Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 111 (1983).
argue that Connor lacks standing to pursue his ADA claim
because he will not again be subject to William Penn Charter
School's policies or procedures and, therefore, there is
no actual or imminent threat of future injury. Defendants
note that Connor did not re-enroll at William Penn Charter
School after completion of the eleventh grade in June of
2014, he never sought readmission to the school, he enrolled
in and graduated from another high school and is currently
enrolled at St. Joseph's University. Defendants urge that
because Connor cannot prove that he will be wronged again, he
cannot establish that any injury will be redressed by a
favorable decision. Defendants correctly note that, under the
applicable provision of the ADA, aside from attorney's
fees, injunctive relief is the only available remedy.
See 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a)(1).
respond that standing is assessed as of the time the action
was filed. Plaintiffs note that Connor was seventeen years
old and still a high school student at the time this action
was commenced and, thus, the relief sought could have been
secured in time for him to be re-enrolled at William Penn
Charter School. Plaintiffs also urge that Connor was not
required to remain in a “hostile environment” in
order to have standing to bring his ADA claim.
are correct that standing is assessed in light of the facts
existing “at the outset of the litigation, ”
Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs.
(TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180, (2000), and the
“principles of standing [do not] require [a] plaintiff[
] to remain in a hostile environment to enforce” his
rights. Freed ...