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Marasek v. 206 Courthouse Lane

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 7, 2020

JOAN MARASEK, Plaintiff,
v.
206 COURTHOUSE LANE, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant 206 Courthouse Lane LLC aka and dba 206 Courthouse LLC ("Defendant" or "206 Courthouse LLC"). (ECF No. 88). In this action, Plaintiff Joan Marasek ("Plaintiff) alleges that Defendant, a privately-owned company that owns and leases property to the County of Ocean, failed to provide parking for disabled persons as required under The American with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. Defendant has moved for summary judgement arguing, inter alia, that it was not required under the ADA to provide Plaintiff with a parking spot because one would not have been available to her if she were not disabled.

         Plaintiff twice failed to appear at oral argument, or otherwise properly oppose Defendant's motion for summary judgment, due to her spouse's illness. At the second scheduled oral argument, defense counsel argued that since no opposition was submitted, this action should be dismissed for, inter alia, Plaintiff's failure to prosecute. For the reasons stated herein, this action is dismissed pursuant to the substantive merits of Defendant's summary judgment motion, as well as for Plaintiff's failure to prosecute.

         I.

         Plaintiff contends that she is an individual with a disability who was deprived of parking at a courthouse facility housing the County of Ocean.[1] (Defendant's Undisputed Statement of Facts ¶ 1). Defendant is the owner of the property where the courthouse operates, which it leases to the County of Ocean. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 6). According to the State of New Jersey's Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services' database, Defendant is a private New Jersey limited liability corporation incorporated on September 12, 2000 in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

         A lease agreement between Defendant and the County of Ocean dated December 1, 2015 (the "Lease") governs the terms of the County of Ocean's tenancy of the property. (See Brief in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Moving Br."), Ex. B, Dkt. No. 88-1). Article VI of the Lease, titled "PARKING SPACES." states: "Landlord [Defendant] secured three (3) parking spaces for the Premises. Tenant agrees to rent three (3) parking spaces at an additional $150.00 per space per month." (Id. at 4) (hereinafter referred to as "Parking Spaces").

         The Parking Spaces are reserved for a judge and two administrative employees. (Moving Br. at 6 of 8; Response to Plaintiff's Demand for Production of Documents on Behalf of Defendant 20 Court House LLC, Ex. C).

         Defendant did not own the parking lot in which the Parking Spaces were located. (Moving Br. at 6 of 8). The lot has a private owner that is not a party to this action. (Id.).

         Defendant did not provide the County of Ocean any parking areas aside from the Parking Spaces. (Id.). There is, however, public parking 150 feet from the courthouse which includes spaces accessible to Plaintiff. (See Defendant's Undisputed Statement of Facts ¶ 9).

         Following discovery, on August 15, 2019, Defendant moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 88). The Court scheduled oral argument on the motion for October 17, 2019 via teleconference. On the same day, however, Plaintiff advised the Court that she was unable to participate but expressed a desire to oppose Defendant's motion, even though she failed to submit any opposition. Accordingly, the Court adjourned the hearing to December 16, 2019 and provided Plaintiff with an opportunity to file an opposition brief by November 8, 2019. (ECF No. 95). Plaintiff never filed a response. Rather, on December 13, 2019, or one business day before the hearing's new date, the Court received a facsimile correspondence from Plaintiff advising that she will not be appearing and indicating that she did not (but still wished to) file an opposition. (See ECF No. 98). In that correspondence, Plaintiff also requested that the Court stay or hold the matter in abeyance for at least four months or more, or until at least April 16, 2020, or later. (Id.) The Court denies both requests.

         I. Summary Judgment Dismissal is Warranted

         The Court finds that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment dismissal of all claims. Summary judgment is appropriate under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) when the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the evidence establishes the moving party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

         Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the party opposing the motion must establish that a genuine issue as to a material fact exists. Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Lacey Twp., 772 F.2d 1103, 1109 (3d Cir. 1985). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot rest on mere allegations and instead must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1130-31 (3d Cir. 1995). "[Unsupported allegations ... and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment." Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorp., 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990).

         Moreover, only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law will preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. If a court determines, "after drawing all inferences in favor of [the non-moving party], and making all credibility determinations in his favor . . . that no reasonable jury could find for him, summary judgment is appropriate." Alevras v. Tacopina, 226 Fed.Appx. 222, 227 (3d Cir. 2007).

         Although pro se pleadings are "liberally construed" and "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers," Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), "a pro se plaintiff is not exempt from his burden of providing some affirmative evidence, i.e. not just mere allegations, to establish a prima facie case, and to show that there is a genuine dispute for trial." Niblack v. Murray, No. CV126910MASTJB, 2016 WL 4086775, at *2 (D.N.J. July 29, 2016) (citing Barnett v. N.J. Transit Corp., 573 Fed.Appx. 239, 243 (3d Cir. 2014)). Further, "[e]ven though a court will often be more lenient with pro se litigants, such litigants 'cannot be excused from compliance with the plain text of the federal rules and court orders.'" Gilligan v. Cape May Cty. Corr., No. CIV 05-1177 RMB, 2006 WL 3454864, at *2 (D.N.J. Nov. 28, 2006) (citation omitted).

         i. Title II of the ADA

         Plaintiff brings several claims purportedly arising under Title II of the ADA. (See Memorandum and Order at 5, Dkt. No. 84 (finding that counts two, three, eight, nine, ten, and eleven arise under Title II). "To successfully state a claim under Title II of the ADA, a person 'must demonstrate: (1) [she] is a qualified individual; (2) with a disability; (3) [who] was excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or was subjected to discrimination by any such entity; (4) by reason of his disability.'" Haberle v. Troxell, 885 F.3d 170, 178 (3d Cir. 2018) (emphasis supplied) (citation omitted). Title II does not govern the conduct of private entities. See Graham v. Rawley, No. CIV.A. 14-6743, 2015 WL 3660770, at *4 (D.N.J. June 11, 2015) (citation omitted). "A 'public entity' is defined, in relevant part, as 'any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government.'" Bowers v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 9 F.Supp.2d 460, 474 (D.N.J. 1998) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12131). A '"private entity' is defined to capture everything which is not a 'public entity.'" Id.

         Here, there is no genuine dispute as to whether Defendant is a private entity. (See Amended Compl. ¶ 7 ("[206 Courthouse LLC] is a privately owned Limited Liability Company ('LLC') that owns and leases this Courthouse to the Defendant County of Ocean") (emphasis supplied)). The parties agree that 206 Courthouse LLC is a privately-owned company that owned and leased the County of Ocean the property in which the subject courthouse facility operated. (Id.; see also Moving Br. (ECF No. 88)). Thus, since Title II does not govern the conduct of private entities, Defendant is entitled to summary judgement dismissal of Plaintiff s claims two, three, eight, nine, ten, and eleven, all arising under Title II.

         ii. Title ...


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