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Cottrell v. J&R Discount Liquor Gallery

April 21, 2009

MARYANN COTTRELL AND RICHARD HOLLAND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
J&R DISCOUNT LIQUOR GALLERY, INC., AND DAVID J. STROUT, JR., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This matter involves plaintiffs' claims that defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination when they allowed non-handicapped-marked vehicles to park in handicapped parking spaces, and when they banned plaintiffs from entering the premises. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint and for sanctions. For the reasons expressed below defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part, and their motion for sanctions will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Maryann Cottrell is the mother of a severely disabled daughter, and she and plaintiff Richard Holland share the responsibility of her care. Plaintiffs are advocates for the disabled, and they inform local authorities about businesses that fail to maintain handicap accessible parking and/or fail to discourage unauthorized use of handicapped parking spaces. With regard to defendant J&R Discount Liquors, plaintiffs claim that they observed on several occasions vehicles not tagged for handicapped parking parked in reserved spaces. Plaintiffs filed citizens complaints each time they made such observations. Plaintiffs also claim that as a result of their enforcement activities, defendants attempted to intimidate them into ceasing their enforcement activities, and ultimately banned plaintiffs from accessing the premises.

Based on defendants' alleged conduct, plaintiffs claim that they violated the American with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq. ("ADA") and New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. ("NJLAD").*fn1 Specifically, plaintiffs allege that they suffered discrimination in violation of the ADA and NJLAD when defendants parked or maintained a policy of allowing others to park vehicles in spaces reserved for the disabled. Plaintiffs also allege that when defendants banned plaintiffs from the liquor store premises, it was a violation of the ADA and NJLAD because it constituted unlawful retaliation for their availment of their rights under the ADA and NJLAD.

Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claims on several bases. First, defendants argue that plaintiffs lack standing to bring these claims. Defendants also argue that the ADA claims can only be brought against an employer. Finally, defendants argue that plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to support their claims.

Defendants have also moved for sanctions pursuant to Federal Civil Procedure Rule 11. They argue that due to an opinion and order issued by Judge Robert Kugler several days prior to the filing of their complaint here, plaintiffs should have known that their complaint was not viable.

Plaintiffs have opposed both of defendants' motions.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction

Plaintiffs have brought their claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as pursuant to New Jersey state law. This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they ...


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