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Tauscher v. Phoenix Board of Realtors Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 29, 2017

Mark Tauscher, Plaintiff,
Phoenix Board of Realtors, Inc., Defendant.



         Before the Court are the parties' Cross Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docs. 45, 48.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48) is granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Mark Tauscher is a deaf individual whose “expressed, preferred, and most effective means of communication” is American Sign Language (“ASL”). (Doc. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff is a licensed real estate agent in the State of Arizona. (Doc. 1 at 3.) Defendant Phoenix Board of Realtors, doing business as Phoenix Association of Realtors (“PAR”), is a real estate professional organization to which Plaintiff belongs. (Doc. 1 at 3.)

         On September 28, 2012, Plaintiff contacted Defendant to notify the organization that he intended to attend classes held by PAR and “to request accommodations of ASL interpreters in order to attend the classes.” (Doc. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff and Defendant's Chief Executive Officer Diane Scherer discussed Plaintiff's accommodation request for an ASL translator over a telephone call on October 15, 2012, during which time she suggested alternative accommodations such as the use of a FM loop system or real-time captioning. (Doc. 1 at 4.) During this conversation, Scherer informed Plaintiff that “PAR could not provide ASL interpreters because of the cost, ” while Plaintiff advised Defendant that “other forms of accommodation could not provide effective communication in a live class setting.” (Doc. 1 at 4.)

         In February 2013, Plaintiff registered for a finance class offered by Defendant. (Doc. 1 at 4.) The registration form that Plaintiff completed included a checkbox stating, “I have a disability that requires special accommodation, ” which Plaintiff marked and underneath wrote “sign language interpreter.” (Doc. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff contacted Scherer on February 7, 2013 to inform her that he planned on attending the class and again requested that an ASL interpreter be provided for him. (Doc. 1 at 4.) The following day, Plaintiff received a response from an attorney at the law firm that represents Defendant explaining that “PAR was under an obligation to accommodate Plaintiff and denied Plaintiff's request for an interpreter.” (Doc. 1 at 4-5.) Plaintiff did not attend the class and received a refund for his registration costs. Subsequent correspondence between Plaintiff and Defendant's lawyer confirmed that Defendant would not provide Plaintiff an ASL interpreter because it was under no obligation to do so. (Doc. 1 at 5.)

         On October 14, 2014, Plaintiff again reached out to Defendant to inform it that he enrolled in one of its upcoming courses and requested that an interpreter be provided. Plaintiff received a response from Defendant's lawyer maintaining that while it was under no obligation to provide an interpreter, PAR would be “willing to discuss ‘less burdensome alternatives.'” (Doc. 1 at 5.)

         Plaintiff initiated the present case against Defendant for alleged violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12181 and the Arizonans with Disabilities Act (“AzDA”), Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 41-1492. (Doc. 1.) The parties have filed Cross Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docs. 45, 48.)

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment may also be entered “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         The moving party “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (1986). If the movant carries its initial burden of production, in response, the non-movant “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” and instead must “come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

         The court views the evidence and draws reasonable inferences “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). However, only disputes over facts that could affect the outcome of the suit will preclude the entry of summary judgment, and the disputed evidence must be “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). See also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         III. Discussion

         To state a prima facie case under the ADA, Plaintiff must show (1) that he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) that he is a qualified individual with a disability; and (3) that he was discriminated against because of his disability. Smith v. Clark Cty. Sch. Dist., 727 F.3d 950, 955 (9th Cir. 2013).[1] The parties dispute whether Defendant is a public accommodation under Title III of the ADA. (Doc. 45 at 5-8; Doc. 48 at 9-11.) Assuming for purposes of the present Cross Motions for Summary Judgment that Defendant is a public accommodation under the ADA, the crux ...

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