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Gregory Lasky v. Moorestown Township

August 10, 2011

GREGORY LASKY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MOORESTOWN TOWNSHIP, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kugler, United States District Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION (Doc. No. 16)

OPINION

This is a public accommodations dispute. Plaintiff Gregory Lasky is a paraplegic who claims that Defendant Moorestown Township does not provide proper access to its public library, town hall, sidewalks, and streets. Plaintiff asserts claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq. ("ADA"), and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-1 et seq. ("NJLAD"). Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment denying Plaintiff's ADA claim for lack of standing and denying Plaintiff's NJLAD claim because Plaintiff did not request reasonable accommodations before bringing suit. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Defendant's motion.

I.BACKGROUND

Plaintiff resides in Margate, Florida. He has never lived or worked in New Jersey. However, he claims that he is a frequent visitor to Moorestown, New Jersey and that he is harmed by Defendant's failure to ensure that Moorestown's library, streets, sidewalks, and town hall are accessible to disabled persons. Plaintiff is the president of Advocates for Disabled Americans ("AFDA"). AFDA was a Plaintiff in this matter, but AFDA executed a stipulation of dismissal in February 2010. Plaintiff and AFDA have filed several lawsuits around the country, in New Jersey, and at least one other suit against Moorestown alleging violations of public accommodations laws. According to Plaintiff, AFDA is "based out of New Jersey," and several AFDA members live in South Jersey. (Lasky Cert. dated Feb. 7, 2011 ("Lasky Cert.") ¶¶ 3, 28).

Plaintiff characterizes Moorestown as "almost [his] second home." (Lasky Dep. 6:19). Plaintiff's wife's best friend, Lori Sheridan, resides near Hightstown, New Jersey, and Plaintiff and his wife have a family tradition of celebrating July 4th in South Jersey. (Lasky Dep. in Lasky v. Hightstown, No. L-216-09, (N.J. Super. Ct. L. Div. at 59:17-24)).*fn1 Plaintiff intends to "return for the July 4th Holidays in 2011, 2012, 2013 and annually." (Lasky Cert. dated Feb. 7, 2011 ¶ 29). Plaintiff also visits New Jersey regularly to fulfill his duties as president of the AFDA and to attend area sporting events. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 8). Plaintiff attends three to five Phillies' games a year. (Id. ¶ 5). In recent years, Plaintiff has also traveled to South Jersey because he was appointed guardian ad litem for Stuart Novak, a mentally disabled man, in a case currently pending before the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County. (Id. ¶ 4). In all, Plaintiff travels to South Jersey approximately four times a year. (Id. ¶ 6). He identifies seven specific visits to South Jersey between November 2007 and July 2009.*fn2 (Pl's Answers to Def.'s Interrogatories, Def.'s Ex. J, at 1).

According to Plaintiff, when he travels to New Jersey, he stays at hotels on Route 73 close to downtown Moorestown. (Lasky Cert. ¶ 9). Plaintiff likes to spend time in Moorestown when he visits South Jersey because his wife enjoys the downtown area, it is the "closest traditional downtown to [his] hotels," and he enjoys the "historical structures." (Id. ¶ 28). Plaintiff uses banks in Moorestown and he visits the public library. (Lasky Dep. at 6:18-7:15). In January 2008, Plaintiff obtained a library card for the Moorestown library. (Id. at 16:16-22).

Plaintiff intends to return to Moorestown "for many reasons:"

I intend to return to enjoy the services of Moorestown. I love the downtown. It is very attractive with very historical structures. Adjacent to Moorestown are the hotels that I enjoy . . . I intend to return in order to attend sporting events that I enjoy including the Philadelphia Phillies and basketball. I intend to return for my responsibilities for Mr. Novak. I intend to return to Moorestown to perform my duties as President of [AFDA], which is based out of South Jersey. I also intend to return as a tester to ensure that the services of the Defendant are accessible. . . . I intend to return for the July 4th Holidays in 2011, 2012, 2013 and annually.

(Lasky Cert. ¶ 28).

Plaintiff filed the Complaint in August 2009. He claims that during his visits to Moorestown he has difficulty accessing places of public accommodation. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that his "ability to use the downtown [is] greatly impaired because of very steep slopes and cross slopes and lack of level landings at the top of curb cuts." (Id. ¶ 16). According to Plaintiff, "it is dangerous for [him] to travel these curb cuts because they unbalance and top my wheelchair." (Id. ¶ 17). Plaintiff claims that the library does not provide adequate or safe access for wheelchairs and that the men's restroom in the library is not wheelchair accessible. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23). Plaintiff also claims that the town hall is not wheelchair accessible. (Id. ¶ 24). Plaintiff asserts claims under the ADA and the NJLAD. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys' fees and costs.

Defendant now moves for summary judgment denying Plaintiff's claims. Defendant argues that Plaintiff lacks standing to sue under the ADA and that Plaintiff's NJLAD claim fails because he did not request reasonable accommodations from Defendant before bringing suit. The parties have submitted their respective briefs, and the motion is ripe for decision.

II.LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When the Court weighs the evidence presented by the parties, the Court is not to make credibility determinations regarding witness testimony. Sunoco, Inc. v. MX Wholesale Fuel Corp., 565 F. Supp. 2d ...


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