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Maryann Cottrell and Richard Holland v. Zagami

February 14, 2012

MARYANN COTTRELL AND RICHARD HOLLAND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ZAGAMI, LLC,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

IRENAS, Senior District Judge:

This case involves Plaintiffs Maryann Cottrell and Richard Holland's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") that Defendant Zagami, LLC retaliated against them in response to Plaintiffs' efforts to discourage the unauthorized use of handicap accessible parking.*fn1 Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I.

Plaintiff Maryann Cottrell is the mother of a severely disabled girl; she shares responsibility for the care of her daughter with Plaintiff Richard Holland. (Amended Compl. ¶6.) Defendant Zagami operates the Landmark Americana Tap and Grill ("Landmark Americana"), Landmark Liquors, and a nightclub called The Spot, in Glassboro, New Jersey. (Id. ¶2.)

Cottrell has filed a number of citizen's complaints for handicapped parking violations on Defendant's premises, which include: (1) Oct. 31, 2005 against Jeremiah Trotter; (2) Nov. 28, 2005 against Jeremiah Trotter; (3) Nov. 28, 2005 against Donovan McNabb; (4) Jan. 27, 2006 against Landmark and Rolling Rock; (5) June 26, 2006 against Landmark; and (6) June 27, 2006 against Landmark.*fn2 (Reuter Cert. Ex. H #7.)

Plaintiff Holland could not remember whether he was present when Cottrell wrote tickets for any of the alleged violations or whether he participated in taking photographs or videos of the violations prior to the date they were banned from Defendant's property. (Id. Ex. G at 259.)

By letter dated June 9, 2006, Cottrell requested a public hearing on the renewal of Defendant's liquor license. (Id. Ex. M.) In her letter, Cottrell stated that she had concerns about Defendant's businesses promoting the sale of alcohol to underage individuals, failing to check credentials in connection with the sale of alcohol, and serving alcohol beyond the legal limit of consumption. (Id.)

On June 26 or 27, 2006, Cottrell documented a handicapped parking violation,*fn3 and then went inside the Landmark Americana to inquire about accommodations. (Id. Ex. I at 79:1-11.) Cottrell inquired about the location of the occupancy sign, which she believed was not conspicuously displayed, and the location of the bathrooms. (Id. at 79-80.) Manager David Goldman met with her and pointed out the occupancy sign and provided a tour of the restaurant and nightclub. (Id.) According Goldman, Cottrell was hostile and loud, and he asked her to leave twice before she complied. (Id. Ex. Q. at 56.)

On June 27, 2006, a Glassboro Council public meeting was held regarding the liquor license renewal for Defendant's businesses during which Cottrell voiced her concerns. (Id. Ex. L.) Specifically, Cottrell made reference to newspaper articles concerning violence at Defendant's businesses and the service of alcohol to minors. (Id.) Also, referring to the Landmark Americana, Cottrell stated that it "hasn't been accessible for the disabled." (Id.)

On July 6, 2006, Defendant issued to Plaintiffs a "ban letter" forbidding them from entering onto the premises because their "prior actions have been disruptive of the regular and essential operations of the Premises." (Id. Ex. R.) This ban letter was directed to both Cottrell and Holland. According to Goldman, Holland and Cottrell "were attempting to accomplish the same exact thing and while Richard Holland did not actually write a letter to protest our liquor license or speak out at that liquor license [hearing] . . . our feeling was that we just wanted nothing to do with him . . . ." (Hanna Cert. Ex. B at 87-88.)

Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this action on July 3, 2008, and an Amended Complaint on June 18, 2009. The instant Motion for Summary Judgment was filed on January 10, 2012.

II.

"Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper 'if 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 law.'" ...


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