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Midwest Disability Initiative v. JANS Enterprises, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 13, 2017

The Midwest Disability Initiative and Gerald Doyen, Plaintiffs,
v.
JANS Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Nico's Taco & Tequila Bar and JC LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOAN N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant JANS Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Nico's Taco & Tequila Bar (“Nico's”) and Defendant JC LLC move to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants also move for sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. Plaintiff Midwest Disability Initiative (“MDI”) and Plaintiff Gerald Doyen (“Doyen”) oppose both motions. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion to dismiss and denies the motion for sanctions.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendants argue in their motion to dismiss that the doctrine of res judicata (or “claim preclusion”) requires dismissal of the claims against them. Specifically, Defendants argue that the final judgment in a prior case-Midwest Disability Initiative v. JANS Enterprises, Inc., 17-cv-1279 (D. Minn. Aug. 8, 2017)-bars Plaintiffs' current claims. Defendants argue in their motion for sanctions that Plaintiffs' counsel violated Rule 11 by choosing to pursue these barred claims in this case.

         A. The prior judgment involving Defendants, MDI, and Paul Testa.

         Paul Testa, who is not a party to this case, “is a disabled individual who suffers from severe avascular necrosis.” He fully depends on a wheelchair or motor scooter and is a member of MDI. ECF No. 5-1 at 8, 12. Defendant JANS Enterprises, Inc. owns and operates Nico's. It is also the lessee of the property on which Nico's operates. Defendant JC LLC is the lessor of the property. Id. at 12-13.

         On December 16, 2016, Testa visited Nico's and “encountered unlawful and discriminatory barriers to equal and independent access and enjoyment of the premises.” Id. at 8. On March 24, 2017, Testa and MDI filed a complaint against Defendants (“the Testa Case”). Id. at 5. MDI described itself in this complaint as “a Minnesota nonprofit corporation organized under Chapter 317A of the Minnesota Statutes. The purpose of MDI is to ‘make a trail and leave a path' by holding businesses that ignore the requirements of the ADA accountable and thereby educating the business, public and disabled communities as to the rights the disabled have under the law.” Id. at 11.

         The complaint in the Testa Case alleged that Defendants violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). It stated: “Defendants have discriminated against Testa and others in that it has failed to make its place of public accommodation fully accessible to persons with disabilities on a full and equal basis in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a) and the regulations promulgated thereunder.” Id. at 21. The complaint listed nine discriminatory architectural barriers that allegedly violated the ADA and its regulations. Id. at 16-18. The complaint explained that the list of barriers was not exhaustive. Id. at 18. To remedy these violations, the complaint requested injunctive relief under the ADA to require “Defendants to make readily achievable alterations to their facilities so as to remove physical barriers to access and make their facilities fully accessible to and independently usable by individuals with disabilities to the extent required by the ADA.” Id. at 9.

         On August 2, 2017, Defendants, MDI, and Testa stipulated to dismissal with prejudice, which the court ordered on August 8, 2017. Id. at 42-46.

         B. The case now before the Court involving Defendants, MDI, and Doyen.

         On August 18, 2017, MDI and Doyen filed a Complaint against Defendants (“the Doyen Case”), which is currently before the Court. Compl., ECF No. 1-1.

         “Doyen is a left leg below-the-knee amputee who also has a left hand deformity making it difficult to grasp, twist and hold things.” Id. ¶¶ 6, 15. He depends fully on a wheelchair or motor scooter. Id. He has been a member of MDI since at least August 23, 2016, roughly seven months before the start of the Testa Case. See Complaint ¶ 12, Midwest Disability Initiative v. Hazy Moon, LLC, 16-cv-3409 (D. Minn. Oct. 7, 2016). He has been or is currently co-plaintiff with MDI in at least nine other suits for architectural ADA violations. ECF No. 5-1 at 48.

         In the Complaint, MDI again describes itself as “a Minnesota nonprofit corporation organized under Chapter 317A of the Minnesota Statutes. The purpose of MDI is to ‘make a trail and leave a path' by holding businesses that ignore the requirements of the ADA accountable and thereby educating the business, public and disabled communities as to the rights the disabled have under the ADA.” Compl. ¶ 14.

         The Complaint alleges that Doyen visited Nico's on August 14, 2017. Id. ¶ 6. While there, he “encountered and was deterred from patronizing the subject facility by unlawful and discriminatory barriers to equal and independent access and enjoyment at the premises.” Id. The Complaint maintains that: “Defendants have discriminated against Doyen and others in that it has failed to make its place of public accommodation fully accessible to persons with disabilities on a full and equal basis in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a) and the regulations promulgated thereunder.” Id. ¶ 48. The Complaint again lists nine discriminatory architectural barriers that allegedly violate the ADA and its regulations. Id. ¶¶ 33(a)-(i). Two of the nine listed barriers are new. One new barrier is “an inaccessible public entrance ...


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