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Kelley v. Seagull Book & Tape, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Utah

November 1, 2017

TREVOR KELLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
SEAGULL BOOK & TAPE, INC., d.b.a. SEAGULL BOOK, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Jill N. Parrish, United States District Court Judge.

         District Judge Jill N. Parrish Before the Court is Defendant's Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, filed September 8, 2017 (ECF No. 14). For the reasons below, the Court converts Defendant's motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and grants both parties an opportunity to submit additional evidence.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Trevor Kelly has severe mobility issues due to Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. The condition results in limited or absent movement around small and large joints known as contractures. Plaintiff is unable to walk and relies on a wheelchair for mobility.

         On June 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant Seagull Book, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA").[1] Specifically, the complaint alleges that Defendant (1) failed to "provide an unobstructed high forward reach to the towel dispenser no greater than 48 inches (1220 mm) above the ground, " (2) failed to "provide a parking space identified with a sign that includes the International Symbol of Accessibility", (3) failed to "provide accessible parking space identification signs 60 inches (1525 mm) above the finish floor or ground surface, " (4) failed to "provide signs containing the designation 'van accessible' that identify van parking spaces, " (5) failed to "provide toilet flush controls on the open side of the water closet, " and (6) failed to "insulate or otherwise configure water supply and drain pipes under sinks to protect against contact." ECF No. 2 at 6-7.

         Defendant asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs complaint in its entirety. Defendant presents three independent arguments favoring dismissal: First, Defendant has allegedly remediated all alleged violations, rendering Plaintiffs claim moot; second, Plaintiff does not satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement for standing; and third, Plaintiff has failed to join an indispensable party.

         II. MOOTNESS

         A. Legal Standard

         Defendant's motion alleges that Defendant has remediated the alleged violations of the ADA, rendering them moot, and therefore the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Article III limits a federal court's jurisdiction to "cases and controversies." See U.S. Const, art. Ill. § 2, cl. 1. "Mootness is a threshold issue because the existence of a live case or controversy is a constitutional prerequisite to federal jurisdiction." Disability Law Ctr. v. Milcreek Health Ctr., 428 F.3d 992, 996 (10th Cir. 2005). "An actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed." Utah Animal Rights Coal. v. Salt Lake City, 371 F.3d 1248, 1256 (10th Cir. 2004). Consequently, once a controversy ceases to exist, "the action is moot and this court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter." Wyoming v. Dept. of Interior, 674 F.4d 1220, 1228 (10th Cir. 2012) (citing United States v. Seminole Nation, 321 F.3d 939, 943 (10th Cir. 2002)). When a party seeks only equitable relief, "[p]ast exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy . . . if unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects." Beattie v. United States, 848 F.2d 1092, 1094 (10th Cir. 1991). "The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction." Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974).

         Motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) take two forms: facial and factual. Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002 (10th Cir. 1995). Defendant's motion constitutes a factual challenge. In a factual challenge, "a party may go beyond allegations contained in the complaint and challenge the facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction depends." Id. at 1003. District courts "may not presume the truthfulness of the complaint's factual allegations, " and they have "wide discretion to allow affidavits, other documents, and a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts under Rule 12(b)(1)." Id.

         Still, district courts are required to convert Rule 12(b)(1) motions into Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss or Rule 56 motions for summary judgment "when resolution of the jurisdictional question is intertwined with the merits of the case." Id. "The jurisdictional question is intertwined with the merits of the case if subject matter jurisdiction is dependent on the same statute which provides the substantive claim in the case." Id.

         B. Analysis

         1. Defendant's Motion Must be Converted to a Rule 56 Motion for Summary Judgment

         The Court must first determine whether to convert Defendant's motion to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss or to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. That determination hinges upon whether subject-matter jurisdiction depends on the same statute that provides the substantive claim in this case (the ADA).

         Defendant argues that it "investigated the allegations and undertook remediation efforts, where such were warranted, and made any and all repairs necessary to ensure its customers with disabilities are afforded full and equal enjoyment of the facilities and services offered at the Taylorsville Seagull Book." ECF No. 14 at viii. Specifically, Defendant avers that it has taken the following remedial actions:

1. It corrected the height of its bathroom towel dispenser.
2. It replaced the flush handle on the toilet with a more accessible one.
3. It insulated the water supply and drain pipes under the bathroom sink.
4. It contacted its landlord regarding parking space and sign ...

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