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Hillesheim v. Morris-Walkers, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 19, 2019

Zach Hillesheim, Plaintiff,
v.
Morris-Walkers, Ltd. and Orchard Park, LLC, Defendants.

          Padraigin Browne, Esq. and Browne Law LLC, counsel for plaintiff.

          Edward P. Sheu, Esq., Brian J. Linnerooth, Esq. and Best & Flanagan LLP, counsel for defendants.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion for judgment on the pleadings by defendants Morris-Walker Ltd. and Orchard Park, LLC, and plaintiff Zach Hillesheim's letter request that defendants show cause as to why they should not be sanctioned. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted in part and the letter request is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         This disability dispute arises from plaintiff Zach Hillesheim's visit to the Emma Krumbee's restaurant in Belle Plaine, Minnesota (the Restaurant), which is owned and operated by defendants. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 14. Hillesheim is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Id. ¶ 11. He claims that deficiencies in the Restaurant's parking area and interior deprived him of full and equal enjoyment of the Restaurant.

         This is one of the many lawsuits brought by Hillesheim and his partner, Melanie Davis, through their attorney, Padraigin Browne, against various businesses, alleging assorted violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). To some degree, the circumstances-of this case intersect with a disability lawsuit Davis brought against these same defendants. See Davis v. Morris-Walker, Ltd., No. 17-1270 (D. Minn, filed Apr. 20, 2017).

         I. The Davis Case

         Davis claimed that she was unable to dine at the Restaurant due to inaccessibility issues, and filed suit under the ADA and the MHRA. See id. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 31-49. Davis alleged that the Restaurant did not have: (1) a sufficient number of handicap parking spaces based on the Restaurant's primary and adjacent, overfill parking areas in violation of ADA Accessibility Guideline (ADAAG) § 208.02; (2) proper handicap parking signs in violation of ADAAG §§ 216.5, 502.6, and 703.7.2.1; (3) proper access aisles in violation of ADAAG §§ 208.02 and 502.2; (4) accessible pathways that do not require travel through vehicular ways in violation of ADAAG § 206.3; and (5) a level pathway in violation of ADAAG §§ 206.2.1, 403.2, and 303.2. See id. ECF No. 1 ¶ 25. id. Davis sought declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. Id. ¶ 49.

         After receiving the complaint in Davis, defendants made improvements to the Restaurant's parking area with the assistance of a certified accessability specialist, Julee Quarve-Peterson, a municipal building official, and an attorney. See Davis v. Morris-Walker, Ltd., No. 17-1270, 2017 WL 6209825, at *1 (D. Minn. Dec. 7, 2017). Davis conceded that the improvements redressed the alleged violations except for the number of available handicap parking spaces. Id. at *2.

         On December 7, 2017, the court dismissed Davis's complaint as moot in light of the improvements. See id. at *3. The court also determined that the Restaurant's primary parking area had a sufficient number of handicap parking spaces and that the adjacent, overfill parking area was a separate parking facility shared with the City of Belle Plaine, not Restaurant parking. See id. at *2. The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the MHRA claims and denied Davis's motion to amend her complaint to bring additional ADA claims regarding interior violations because she had not actually entered the Restaurant, and therefore, lacked standing. See id. at *3. The court dismissed the ADA claims with prejudice and the MHRA claims without prejudice. See id. Davis appealed the dismissal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, but modified the dismissal of the ADA claims to be without prejudice due to the jurisdictional nature of the adjudication. See Davis, v. Morris-Walker, Ltd., 922 F.3d 868, 872 (8th Cir. 2019).

         II. This Case

         On January 18, 2018, one month after the court dismissed Davis, Hillesheim attempted to dine at the Restaurant. Compl. ¶ 49. Hillesheim alleges that he observed multiple ADA and MHRA violations in the Restaurant's parking area and interior that impeded his ability to patronize the Restaurant. Id.

         At the oral argument on the instant motion, Hillesheim's counsel, who was also Davis's counsel, represented that "Mr. Hillesheim went to Emma Krumbees on a different date and he encountered different barriers" than Davis. Counsel also represents that Hillesheim's claims "are a direct result of [d]efendants previous inadequate remediation attempts," could not have been ...


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