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Advocates for American Disabled Individuals LLC v. Price Co.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 13, 2016

Advocates for American Disabled Individuals LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Price Company, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Honorable G. Murray Snow, United States District Judge

         On September 1, 2016, this Court issued an Order for the Plaintiffs to Show Cause as to why this case should not be dismissed for lack of standing. (Doc. 20.) For the following reasons, the Court remands the case to state court.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant Price Company (“Costco”) had signs noting which handicapped parking spots were “van accessible.” (Doc. 23 at 2.) However, these signs were posted lower than 60 inches above the ground. (Doc. 22 at 2.) Therefore, the signs were not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). (Id.) The Plaintiffs claim that the lower signage made it more difficult to identify which parking spots were van accessible. (Id.) On September 14, Costco replaced the defective signs with signs located more than 60 inches off of the ground. (Doc. 23 at 10.)

         Plaintiff Advocates for American Disabled Individuals (“Advocates”) does not make any allegations in the complaint regarding the nature of its interest in this proceeding. (Doc. 1.) In Plaintiff's Response to the Order to Show Cause, Advocates alleges that it has “several members/principals who are disabled individuals with mobility impairments, ” including Ms. Shannon Puckett and Mr. David Ritzenthaler. (Doc. 22 at 1-2.) However, Advocates has yet to allege facts supporting the assertion that either Ms. Shannon Puckett or Mr. David Ritzenthaler qualifies as a member of its organization. (Doc. 1-2, Doc. 22.)

         Plaintiff David Ritzenthaler is a legally disabled individual with a state issued handicapped license plate. (Doc. 1-2 at 3.) Mr. Ritzenthaler does not allege that he ever visited the Defendant's parking lot. (Doc. 1-2.) Rather, he alleges that he “became aware” that its parking lot signage violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. (Doc. 1-2 at 1.) Likewise, Ms. Shannon Puckett alleges that at some point before September 8, 2016, she was informed that Costco's signage was defective. (Doc. 22-1 at 12.) It is unclear whether Ms. Puckett ever personally encountered the defective signage. There is a photograph of a receipt from a visit to the Defendant's store attached as an exhibit to the Plaintiff's Reply in Support of the Response to the Order to Show Cause. (Doc. 24-1 at 2.) However, the photograph of the receipt is not accompanied by any information that verifies that it belongs to Ms. Puckett or that the signs were defective at the time of the trip. (Id.) It is photographed in front of her statement claiming that “she has been informed” of defective signage at the Defendant's parking lot. (Id.)

         The Plaintiffs' complaint follows the same format as countless other claims filed by the Plaintiffs' counsel, Mr. Peter Strojnik. There are no specific fact allegations regarding the Defendant's signs in the complaint itself. (Doc. 1-2 at 16.) The vague nature of the complaint led the court to issue an Order to Show Cause as to why the complaint should not be dismissed for lack of standing, as no injury to the Plaintiffs is apparent on the face of the complaint. (Doc. 1-2.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Plaintiff Does Not Have Standing to Pursue this Case.

         “To invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts, a disabled individual claiming discrimination must satisfy the case or controversy requirement of Article III by demonstrating his standing to sue at each stage of litigation.” Chapman v. Pier 1 Imports (U.S.) Inc., 631 F.3d 939, 946 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc). After reviewing Plaintiff's response to the Order to Show Cause, hearing oral arguments, and reviewing the supplemental briefings, the Court concludes that neither Advocates nor Mr. Ritzenthaler has standing to pursue this suit.

         To assert standing under Article III, a plaintiff must illustrate three elements: 1) an injury-in-fact, 2) causation between the injury and the allegedly wrongful conduct, and 3) the injury is likely redressable by the court. Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560- 561 (1992). The burden is on the plaintiff to establish that standing exists. See Id. at 561 (“The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements.”).

         A. David Ritzenthaler Cannot Pursue this Suit Because He Did Not Suffer an Injury-in-Fact.

         An injury-in-fact must be “(a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” Lujan, 504 U.S at 560 (internal citations and quotations omitted). To show particularity, the “party seeking review must allege facts showing that he is himself adversely affected.” Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 740 (1972). To be concrete, an injury must be “real, and not abstract.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1549 (2016) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         The ADA provides a means for disabled individuals to vindicate their right to frequent a business with “the full and equal enjoyment” of its facilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). The statute provides that if an individual is denied that right, he is entitled to injunctive relief. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a). However, “Article III standing ...


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