United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
PATRICIA-ETDODGE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Factual and Procedural Background
the Animal Legal Defense Fund ("ALDF"), a national
non-profit organization, commenced this action on behalf of
its members in January 2019, alleging inadequate conditions
of captivity of numerous animals housed at the facility of
Defendant Farmers' Inn ("Farmers' Inn"),
and sought injunctive relief under the Endangered Species Act
("ESA") and the Pennsylvania Public Nuisance
Doctrine. (ECF No. 1). Farmers' Inn subsequently moved
for dismissal of the Complaint. In an Order dated March 7,
2019, the Court dismissed Count III of the Complaint, which
set forth a claim for Public Nuisance, and denied the motion
as to Counts I and II. (ECF No. 21). In the accompanying
opinion, the Court explained that although ALDF had plausibly
alleged that a public nuisance existed, the allegations
pertaining to injuries suffered by ALDF's members-i.e.,
risk of physical injury, risk of transmission of zoonotic
disease, and being upset at what they saw at Farmers' Inn
-were either too conjectural or otherwise failed to rise to
the level of an "injury in fact." (ECF No. 20 at
5-6). Accordingly, the Court concluded that dismissal of the
public nuisance claim was warranted because ALDF lacked
standing to assert that claim on behalf of its members.
(Id. at 7).
subsequently sought and was granted leave to file an amended
complaint regarding its standing to pursue a public nuisance
claim. (ECF Nos. 26, 34). In the Amended Complaint, ALDF
alleges that its "organizational mission is to advance
the interests and protect the lives of animals through the
legal system." (ECF No. 37 ¶ 75). ALDF claims that
its members who visited Fanners' Inn have "suffered
injuries as a result of observing with their own eyes the
inadequate conditions in which the animals" are kept
there. (ECF No. 37 ¶ 75). Specifically, ALDF asserts
that "its members were prevented from viewing and
enjoying the animals . . . because of the inadequate and
inhumane conditions" at Farmers' Inn. (Id.
¶ 76). Its members desire to return to view the animals,
"but are unable to do so because of the current
conditions." (Id. ¶ 77).
Amended Complaint also references and attaches as exhibits
the declarations of two of ALDF's members, Ms. Bennett
and Dr. Welsch, both of whom are residents of Pennsylvania
and have visited Farmers' Inn. (Id. ¶¶
78) (citing ECF Nos. 37-3, 37-4). These declarations reflect
that Ms. Bennett and Dr. Welsch were deprived of any ability
to enjoy the animals during their visits because of the
inadequate conditions in which they witnessed those animals.
(Id. ¶¶ 80, 86). They have been unable
"to return to enjoy viewing the animals while those
conditions persist, notwithstanding [their] desire to do so,
because of the distress [they] experienced" during their
past visits. (Id. ¶¶ 82, 88). However,
they are "committed to return to visit the animals . . .
if the conditions are improved [at Farmers' Inn], or . .
. the animals ... are transferred to a sanctuary capable of
meeting their species-specific needs." (Id.
¶¶ 83, 89).
March 29, 2019, Farmers' Inn renewed its motion to
dismiss Count III. (ECF No. 40). Farmers' Inn maintains
that the additional allegations in the Amended Complaint fail
to establish that ALDF has Article III standing to pursue the
public nuisance claim on behalf of its members.
(Id.). This motion has been fully briefed and is
ripe for resolution. (ECF Nos. 41, 44). For the reasons that
follow, the Court will deny the motion to dismiss.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) challenges the subject-matter jurisdiction of the
court to address the merits of plaintiff s suit. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). Under Rule 12(b)(1), "a court must grant a
motion to dismiss if it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to
hear a claim." In re Sobering Plough Corp.
Intron/Temodar Consumer Class Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243
(3d Cir. 2012); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3)
("If the court determines at any time that it lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
first step in analyzing a jurisdictional challenge under a
Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is to determine whether the
"motion presents a 'facial' attack or a
'factual' attack on the claim at issue, because that
distinction determines how the pleading must be
reviewed." Constitution Party of Pa. v.
Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 357-58 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting
In re Schering Plough, 678 F.3d at 243). "A
facial 12(b)(1) challenge, which attacks the complaint on its
face without contesting its alleged facts, is like a 12(b)(6)
motion in requiring the court to 'consider the
allegations of the complaint as true.'" Hartig
Drug Co. Inc. v. Senju Pharm. Co., 836 F.3d 261, 268 (3d
Cir. 2016) (quoting Petruska v. Gannon Univ., 462
F.3d 294, 302 n.3 (3d Cir. 2006)). "But a factual
12(b)(1) challenge attacks allegations underlying the
assertion of jurisdiction in the complaint, and it allows the
defendant to present competing facts." Id.
(citing Constitution Party of Pa., 757 F.3d at 358).
defendant challenges jurisdiction in its Rule 12(b)(1) motion
before answering the complaint or "otherwise
present[ing] competing facts," the Rule 12(b)(1) motion
is, "by definition, a facial attack."
Constitution Party of Pa., 757 F.3d at 358 (citing
Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n,
549 F.2d 884, 892 n.17 (3d Cir. 1977)). When analyzing a
facial attack on subject-matter jurisdiction, "the court
must only consider the allegations of the complaint and
documents referenced therein and attached thereto, in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff." In re
Schering Plough, 678 F.3d at 243 (quoting Gould
Elecs. Inc., v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d
Cir. 2000)). "The person asserting jurisdiction bears
the burden of showing that the case is properly before the
court at all stages of the litigation." Packard v.
Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1045 (3d Cir.
1993) (citing McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance
Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936)).
Inn challenges the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction
based upon the allegations in the Amended Complaint before
answering or otherwise presenting competing facts. As this
challenge is a facial attack on the Amended Complaint, tthe
Court will apply the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review, i.e.,
it will consider the allegations of the Amended Complaint as
true and construe them in the light most favorable to ALDF.
organization to have associational standing, i.e., standing
to pursue a claim on behalf of its members, three elements
must be satisfied: "(1) individual members must have
standing in their own right, (2) the interest asserted must
be germane to the purpose of the organization, and (3)
neither the claim nor the relief requested must require the
participation of the individual members in the lawsuit."
Curto v. A Country Place Condo. Ass 'n, Inc.,
921 F.3d 405, 410 n.2 (3d Cir. 2019) (citing Hunt v.
Washington Apple Adver. Comm. 432 U.S. 333, 344 (1977)).
The first two elements are based on Article III
constitutional requirements, while the third element is
purely prudential. United Food & Commercial Workers
Union Local 751 v. Brown Grp., Inc., 517 U.S. 544,
seeking dismissal of the public nuisance claim, Farmers'
Inn neither argues that ALDF's individual members lack
standing, nor contests that ALDF seeks to protect interests
germane to its purpose. (ECF No. 41 at 10). Instead, focusing
on the third element, Farmers' Inn contends that ALDF
lacks associational standing to pursue the public nuisance
claim because Pennsylvania law requires direct participation
of ALDF's individual members in this lawsuit.
(Id. at 8). However, the Court will analyze all
three elements of associational standing because it
"ha[s] an independent obligation to determine whether
subject-matter jurisdiction exists, ...