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Maryann Cottrell and Richard Holland v. Matt Blatt

July 21, 2011

MARYANN COTTRELL AND RICHARD HOLLAND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MATT BLATT, INC., D/B/A MATT BLATT AUTO SALES, D/B/A MATT BLATT SUZUKI; JANE DOE BUSINESS MANAGER; JOHN DOES 1-4, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, respectively. Plaintiffs Maryann Cottrell and Richard Holland have brought claims against Defendants Matt Blatt, Inc. and "Jane Doe Business Manager," later identified as Lisa Hulmes, pursuant to § 12203 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12181, et seq., and § 10:5-12(d) of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), N.J. STAT. ANN. § 10:5-1, et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiffs' Complaint will be denied.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Cottrell is the mother of a disabled girl, whom she and Plaintiff Holland care for together. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Because of her daughter's severe disability and need for "constant care and supervision," Ms. Cottrell is legally permitted to park in handicap parking spaces reserved for disabled people. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)

Plaintiffs describe themselves as longtime advocates for the disabled, and have gained both local and national publicity for their activism. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs' plan of action includes assessing and documenting handicap access at the public accommodations Cottrell encounters in her everyday life. (Id. ¶ 11.) Cottrell reports the public accommodations that do not maintain handicap accessible parking spaces and/or do not discourage the improper use of handicap parking spaces to the local law enforcement authorities. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiffs claim to garner no compensation or any other type of personal benefit for their efforts, other than making handicap parking spaces available for those who need them. (Id. ¶ 14.)

Defendant Matt Blatt, Inc. is an automobile and motorcycle dealership. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiffs frequently visited Matt Blatt's car lot and observed vehicles improperly parked in access aisles, parking spaces, and/or passenger loading zones designated for the handicapped. (Id. ¶ 19.) Cottrell photographed the vehicles, recorded the license plate numbers, and filed citizens' complaints against the vehicles' owner, Matt Blatt, Inc. (Id.) Defendant Matt Blatt, Inc. has been convicted of many of the charges that Cottrell has initiated, and has paid a substantial amount of fees as a result. (Id. ¶ 21.)

On February 2, 2009, Plaintiffs allegedly observed a vehicle without a handicap license plate parked in a handicap space on Matt Blatt's property. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiffs approached the vehicle to "investigate and document" it.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Jane Doe, now identified as Lisa Hulmes, presented herself as Defendant Matt Blatt's business manager and confronted Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 23.) According to the Complaint, Hulmes "revoked [Plaintiffs'] status as business invitees." (Id.)

Defendants contest Plaintiffs' allegation that they revoked Plaintiffs' status as business invitees. Further, as part of the instant motion, Defendants have denied that the Plaintiffs have been "banned" from Matt Blatt's dealership. (Br. in Support of Def's Mot. to Dismiss p. 2.) Instead, Defendants allege that they made a "one-time request that Plaintiff Cottrell leave because she was creating a disturbance" and not because Plaintiffs were documenting Defendant Matt Blatt's alleged parking violations. (Id.)

As part of the Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Cottrell has shopped at Matt Blatt for cars in the past and would like to do so in the future. (Compl. ¶ 16.) Plaintiffs also allege that Holland has shopped at Matt Blatt for cars in the past and would like to do so in the future as well. (Id. ¶ 17.) Holland allegedly has a hobby of comparing automobiles and motorcycles offered for sale at local car lots, and purchases, refurbishes, and resells cars from local car dealerships. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that "[f]riends often ask Mr. Holland to help them assess automobiles or motorcycles they are interested in before making purchases." (Id.) Defendants contest these assertions, and contend that "[a]t no time have either Ms. Cottrell or Mr. Holland ever made inquiry concerning the purchase of an automobile or motorcycle." (Br. In Support of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss p. 4)

On February 2, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendants for retaliation in violation of the ADA and the NJLAD. (Dkt. Entry No. 1.) In Count I, Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12205 of the ADA. (Id. paras. a-d.) In Count II, Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, a civil penalty pursuant to N.J. STAT. ANN. § 10:5-14.1, and compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney's fees, litigation expenses, and costs, pursuant to N.J. STAT. ANN. § 10:15-13; 10:5-27.1. (Id. paras. a-e.) In response, on May 18, 2011, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. Entry No. 5.)

II. JURISDICTION

This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' ADA claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This Court has supplemental subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

III. APPLICABLE STANDARDS

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 governs a court's decision to dismiss a claim based on the pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12. More specifically, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) governs a court's decision to dismiss a claim for "lack of subject matter jurisdiction" and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) governs a court's decision to dismiss a claim for failure to ...


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