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Nguyen v. New Release DVD, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 26, 2017

APRIL NGUYEN, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff
v.
NEW RELEASE DVD, LLC, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          STENGEL, C. J.

          Plaintiff April Nguyen brings this action individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated against Defendant New Release DVD, LLC, and its related companies, alleging a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss to which the plaintiff responded. For the following reasons, I will grant the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         The defendants own and operate over 130 sales kiosks, through which they rent DVD movies to the public. Am.Compl. ¶ 36. Each of these kiosks is accessed exclusively via a touch-screen interface, which renders the kiosks inaccessible to individuals like Ms. Nguyen, who are visually-impaired or blind. Id. at ¶¶ 32, 50, 53. The amended complaint alleges that physical access to the kiosks represents the only way in which customers may complete DVD rental transactions with the defendants, and the kiosks are the only physical places of business maintained by the defendants. Id. at ¶¶ 37, 41.

         Consumers who wish to rent a DVD from the defendants must first travel to one of the defendants' kiosks. Id. at ¶ 47. The defendants may assist consumers in locating the proper kiosk location where they may rent a specific DVD, via the “FIND A KIOSK” option on the defendants' website, thereby driving consumer traffic to specific physical kiosk locations. Id. at ¶ 38. Once they have arrived at the kiosk, consumers may --exclusively through a touch screen interface which is inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired -- browse the selection of movies available at that particular kiosk, make their selection, pay via credit or debit card, and then retrieve the movie they have selected. Id. at ¶ 51. When the rental period is up, consumers must physically return the DVD to the kiosk. Id.

         The amended complaint also alleges that Ms. Nguyen and her family make use of the defendants' kiosks to rent movies in DVD format. Id. at ¶ 59. In July 2016, she unsuccessfully attempted to use the defendants' kiosk at Redner's Market in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, but needed to rely on the assistance of others in order to complete the transaction. Id. at ¶¶ 61, 62, 63.

         Ms. Nguyen brought this one count complaint against the defendants alleging that by failing to make the kiosks accessible to visually-impaired individuals, the defendants are violating basic equal access requirements under applicable federal law. Id. at ¶ 68. She seeks a declaratory judgment and other injunctive relief, payment of costs of suit and reasonable attorney's fees.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Following the Supreme Court decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009), pleading standards in federal actions have shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to allege facts sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009).

         While Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . .claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. 544, the plaintiff must provide “more than labels and conclusions.” Byrne v. Cleveland Clinic, 684 F.Supp.2d 641, 649 (E.D. Pa. 2010)(citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. 544). A facially plausible claim may not be supported by conclusory allegations, but must allow the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Ms. Nguyen argues that the defendants' movie rental kiosks are inaccessible to the visually-impaired. She has attempted to use the kiosks but has been unable to do so without the assistance of others. Based on these attempts, Ms. Nguyen filed this action for a violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeking to represent a statewide class of similarly-situated individuals. The defendants move to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing that the plaintiff cannot state a claim against them under Title III because their kiosks are not places of public accommodation under the Act. I must agree.

         Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits “places of public accommodation” from discriminating, on the basis of a disability, against an individual in the full and equal access to goods and services. The law's general prohibition provides:

No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). A violation under Title III can be based on the “failure to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when such procedures are necessary to afford such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii).

         To be liable under the statute, Defendant New Release DVD must be a “person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation.” Furthermore, its kiosks must be places of public accommodation. The ADA does not define “place of public accommodation, but it does define “public accommodation.” Under the statute, private entities are considered public accommodations if the operations of such entities affect commerce and fall into one of twelve enumerated categories:

(A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such ...

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