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Cottrell v. J&D Discount Liquor Gallery

September 30, 2010

MARYANN COTTRELL AND RICHARD HOLLAND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
J&D DISCOUNT LIQUOR GALLERY, INC., D/B/A J&D LIQUORS, AND DAVID J. STROUT, JR., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiffs, Maryann Cottrell and Richard Holland, claim that defendants, J&D Discount Liquor Gallery, Inc. ("J&D Discount"), doing business as J&D Liquors,*fn1 and David J. Strout, Jr., the president and co-owner of J&D Discount, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq. (or, "ADA") and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. (or, "NJLAD"). Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment against plaintiffs. Conversely, plaintiffs have filed a Cross-motion for Partial Summary Judgment against defendants.

For the reasons expressed below, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is denied. Further, plaintiff's Cross-motion for Partial Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

I. JURISDICTION

This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiffs' federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' related state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND*fn2

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 or fail to discourage unauthorized use of handicap parking spaces and access areas. With regard to defendants, plaintiffs claim that they observed on several occasions vehicles not tagged for handicap parking, specifically a vehicle owned by defendants and several delivery trucks, parked in reserved spaces, access aisles, and/or passenger loading zones, thereby obstructing handicap access to the liquor store. Cottrell filed a citizen's complaint in response to a number of the infractions she observed. Of the five municipal summonses issued to defendants as a result of Cottrell's complaints, the Municipal Court dismissed four of them and there was a finding of not guilty as to the fifth.*fn3

Plaintiffs claim that as a result of their enforcement activities, defendants attempted to intimidate them into ceasing their actions. Ultimately, defendants revoked plaintiffs' statuses as business invitees and banned them from accessing the liquor store premises. More specifically, on or around November 3, 2006, David J. Strout, Jr. sent a letter to Holland, informing him that he was not welcome on defendants' premises and that any attempt to access the premises will provoke a trespassing complaint with the police. Similarly, on or around March 23, 2007, defendants' counsel sent a letter to Cottrell's counsel notifying her that she, too, was no longer permitted on defendants' premises.

On or around November 3, 2008, plaintiffs commenced this suit against defendants. In response, defendants filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for sanctions against plaintiffs. The Court, in an Opinion dated April 21, 2009, granted defendants' motion to dismiss in part, dismissing plaintiffs' discrimination claims under the ADA and the NJLAD for lack of standing. The Court, however, denied the motion with respect to defendants' arguments against plaintiffs' retaliation claims and also denied the motion for sanctions.

On or around July 24, 2009, plaintiffs filed their amended complaint, again alleging that defendants' conduct violated the ADA and the NJLAD. In particular, plaintiffs allege that when defendants revoked their business invitee statuses and banned them from the liquor store premises, defendants' actions constituted unlawful retaliation for plaintiffs' availment of their rights under the ADA and NJLAD.

Defendants now move for summary judgment against plaintiffs' claims. In turn, plaintiffs cross-move for partial summary judgment against defendants.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of ...


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