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Smith v. Rw's Bierstube, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 23, 2019

SCOTT SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
RW'S BIERSTUBE, INC. and YANZ PROPERTIES, LLC, Defendants.

          PADRAIGIN BROWNE, BROWNE LAW LLC, FOR PLAINTIFF.

          EDWARD P. SHEU, BEST & FLANAGAN LLP, FOR DEFENDANTS.

          ORDER

          PATRICK J. SCHILTZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Scott Smith (who uses a wheelchair) brought this action under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq., alleging that he encountered architectural barriers while visiting Bierstube Bowl & Grill (“Bierstube”), a bowling alley and restaurant operated by defendants. In his original complaint, Smith alleged that Bierstube's parking lot violated the ADA in the following ways: (1) it lacked a sufficient number of accessible parking spaces; (2) none of the accessible spaces were marked with signs; (3) one of the accessible spaces lacked an accessible route to the sidewalk surrounding the building; and (4) one of the accessible spaces lacked an adjacent access aisle. Compl. ¶¶ 14-16, 23.

         Bierstube moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the alleged problems had been remedied and that Smith's claims were therefore moot. ECF Nos. 31, 34. In response, Smith filed an amended complaint alleging additional problems with the parking lot. ECF No. 61. Bierstube withdrew its motion to dismiss, and the parties engaged in discovery.

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment and motions to exclude expert testimony. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Bierstube's summary-judgment motion in part and dismisses this case without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Smith lives in Burnsville, Minnesota, a large suburb of the Twin Cities. Smith Dep. 13. Bierstube is located in Red Wing, Minnesota, a small town that is about 50 miles from Burnsville. Smith Dep. 39. Smith says that he travels through Red Wing several times per year, including when he visits his brother in Stockton, Minnesota. Smith Decl. ¶ 2. Stockton is about 110 miles from Burnsville and about 60 miles from Red Wing.

         On May 25, 2017, Smith was driven to Red Wing and then to nearby Winona by Peter Hansmeier, a legal assistant employed by Smith's attorney, Padraigin Browne. Smith Dep. 31; Hansmeier Dep. 9-10, 33-34. Browne has represented Smith in roughly 100 lawsuits challenging architectural barriers under the ADA. Peter Hansmeier is the brother of Paul Hansmeier, who is Browne's husband, and who represented Smith in numerous ADA actions until he was disbarred in connection with his operation of a “porn-trolling” scheme.[1]

         Peter Hansmeier did not drive Smith to various businesses in Red Wing and Winona on May 25, 2017, because Smith intended to patronize those businesses. Smith Dep. 39. Instead, Hansmeier and Smith were hunting for lawsuits. Hansmeier drove Smith to various businesses so that Smith could observe whether each of the businesses was ADA compliant. All told, Smith initiated 13 lawsuits against businesses in Red Wing and Winona based on his May 25 drive with Hansmeier. Smith Dep. 41 (referring to “ten other places” that he sued in addition to the three for which he was being deposed).

         Among the businesses that Smith visited on May 25-and eventually sued-was Bierstube. Hansmeier drove Smith into the Bierstube parking lot at around 10:00 am, and Smith observed various alleged architectural barriers in the parking lot. Smith Dep. 128. Smith did not know if Bierstube was open, and he had not checked its hours of operation before going there. Smith Dep. 39-40. Again, Smith did not care whether Bierstube or the other businesses were open, as he had no interest in patronizing them on that day.

         As noted, Smith alleged in his initial complaint that there were an insufficient number of accessible parking spots in the Bierstube parking lot. But as is clear from the photographs that Hansmeier and Smith took on May 25, all of the accessible spots in the Bierstube parking lot were available at the time of their visit, and all of them were easy to identify. Smith Decl. ¶ 6 & Ex. A.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is warranted “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). A dispute over a fact is “material” only if its resolution might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute over a fact is “genuine” only if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving ...


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