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Dalton v. NPC International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 20, 2018

Aaron Dalton, Plaintiff,
NPC International, Inc., Defendant.


          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.


         Plaintiff Aaron Dalton, who resides in Burnsville suffers from cerebral palsy. (Am. Compl. (Docket No. 19) ¶¶ 8-9.) He uses a wheelchair and a van with a wheelchair lift. (Id. ¶ 11.) He alleges that the Pizza Hut restaurant in Fergus Falls has failed to remove architectural barriers in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In his original Complaint, he alleged that he was prevented from eating at the Pizza Hut in June 2017 because the reserved disabled parking spaces “lacked adjacent access aisles that extended the full length of the parking spaces.” (Compl. (Docket No. 1) ¶ 15.) After the owner of the Pizza Hut, Defendant NPC International, Inc., fixed the parking spaces and filed a motion to dismiss, Dalton filed an Amended Complaint adding several more alleged architectural barriers, none of which he personally encountered. In addition to the original access-aisles claim (Am. Compl. ¶ 15), Dalton now alleges that the Pizza Hut has two public entrances, one of which is not on an accessible path and is not an accessible means of egress[1] (id. ¶ 17); that there is no signage to identify an accessible entrance/exit (id.); and that the service counter is too tall. (Id. ¶ 18.) Dalton alleges that he was deterred from visiting the Pizza Hut as a result of these alleged architectural barriers. (Id. ¶ 21.) He seeks an injunction and attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a)(1).

         NPC now moves to dismiss, contending that it has remedied three of the five alleged architectural barriers and that Dalton has failed to state a claim with respect to the remaining two barriers.


         NPC raises two distinct challenges to Dalton's claims. One is a factual attack under Rule 12(b)(1), asserting that some of Dalton's claims are moot. The other is a contention under Rule 12(b)(6) that two of Dalton's claims are legally untenable.

         A. Standards of Review

         A plaintiff alleging discrimination must show that they have a disability under the ADA, the defendant owns or operates a place of public accommodation, and the defendant discriminated against the plaintiff based on that disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); Amir v. St. Louis Univ., 184 F.3d 1017, 1027 (8th Cir. 1999). The ADA defines discrimination, in relevant part, as “a failure to remove architectural barriers . . . in existing facilities . . . where such removal is readily available.” 42 U.S.C. 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv).

         There is no dispute that Dalton has a disability under the ADA and that the Fergus Falls Pizza Hut is a place of public accommodation. The only issue is whether the Pizza Hut's alleged architectural barriers constitute discrimination against Dalton on the basis of his disability in violation of the ADA.

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(1) seeks dismissal of a complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. NPC avers that three of the five alleged barriers specified in the Amended Complaint have been remedied, and thus NPC challenges the factual truthfulness of the Amended Complaint. In a factual challenge, “no presumptive truthfulness attaches to [plaintiff's] allegations.” Iowa League of Cities v. EPA, 711 F.3d 844, 861 (8th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). It is Dalton's burden to prove that jurisdiction exists. Kennedy Bldg. Assocs. v. Viacom, Inc., 375 F.3d 731, 745 (8th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).

         But to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint need only “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A claim bears facial plausibility when it allows the Court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept factual allegations as true. Gomez v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 676 F.3d 655, 660 (8th Cir. 2012). But “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are insufficient to support a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         NPC alleges that it has remedied the parking lot, signage, and service-counter violations that Dalton asserts in the Amended Complaint. Thus, according to NPC, Dalton's claims about these violations are moot and the Court lacks jurisdiction over them. Dalton counters that the Motion is premature because Dalton has not yet had the opportunity to take discovery on the remediation, or on NPC's policies regarding ADA compliance. But as NPC points out, Dalton has not attempted, in any of the months since he was first notified that NPC had remedied the alleged parking-lot violation, to inquire about the remediation efforts or to verify those efforts on his own. And other Judges in this District have ...

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