860 F.3d 425 (6th Cir. 2017), 16-1205, Michigan Flyer LLC v. Wayne County Airport Authority

Docket Nº:16-1205, 16-1255
Citation:860 F.3d 425
Opinion Judge:SILER, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:MICHIGAN FLYER LLC; INDIAN TRAILS, INCORPORATED, Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees, v. WAYNE COUNTY AIRPORT AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant
Attorney:Jason M. Turkish, NYMAN TURKISH PC, Southfield, Michigan, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees. Gary K. August, ZAUSMER, AUGUST & CALDWELL, P.C., Farmington Hills, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant. Jason M. Turkish, Ryan T. Kaiser, Melissa M. Nyman, NYMAN TURKISH PC, Southfield, Michigan, for App...
Judge Panel:Before: BOGGS, SILER, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:June 22, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 425

860 F.3d 425 (6th Cir. 2017)

MICHIGAN FLYER LLC; INDIAN TRAILS, INCORPORATED, Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees,

v.

WAYNE COUNTY AIRPORT AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant

Nos. 16-1205, 16-1255

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 22, 2017

Argued January 26, 2017.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:15-cv-11512--David M. Lawson, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Jason M. Turkish, NYMAN TURKISH PC, Southfield, Michigan, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees. Gary K. August, ZAUSMER, AUGUST & CALDWELL, P.C., Farmington Hills, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

ON BRIEF:

Jason M. Turkish, Ryan T. Kaiser, Melissa M. Nyman, NYMAN TURKISH PC, Southfield, Michigan, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees. Gary K. August, ZAUSMER, AUGUST & CALDWELL, P.C., Farmington Hills, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Before: BOGGS, SILER, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SILER, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs Michigan Flyer and Indian Trails provide public transportation services. Plaintiffs supported two disabled individuals' lawsuits against Defendant Wayne County Airport Authority (" Airport" ) because some of Plaintiffs' customers are disabled. Airport allegedly began retaliating against Plaintiffs for this support. Plaintiffs sued under the provisions of Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ). The district court dismissed the lawsuit, denied reopening, and denied Airport's claim for attorney's fees. We affirm the district court because it did not err in dismissing the action and did not abuse its discretion in denying reopening or attorney's fees.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Michigan Flyer provides public transportation services to the Detroit Metro area. It also provides services on behalf of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Indian Trails is the parent company of Michigan Flyer. In 2014, two disabled individuals sued Airport to prevent Airport from moving the public transportation bus stop from the curbside at the terminal. Michigan Flyer and Indian Trails (" Plaintiffs" ) provided support to the disabled individuals in the lawsuit. After the lawsuit settled, Plaintiffs allege that Airport retaliated against them for their role in the lawsuit. Among the list of alleged conduct, Plaintiffs allege that Airport extended preferential access to all other transportation providers.

Plaintiffs sued Airport for violation of the ADA Title V provisions. The district court dismissed the lawsuit. Subsequently, the district court denied Plaintiffs' motion to reopen the case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 and Airport's motion for attorney's fees.

II. MOTION TO DISMISS

Plaintiffs brought suit for retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a). The district court dismissed the lawsuit holding that " individual," as used in the statute, did not protect corporate entities. Plaintiffs argue that the term " individual" should be interpreted broadly to protect it from retaliatory actions because the ADA's remedial scheme is broad, Supreme Court precedent supports the finding that " individuals" can include corporations, and agency regulation supports its broad interpretation of the term " individual." Therefore, the question for our review is whether the word " individuals" as found in 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a) includes corporate entities.

a. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review a district court's order granting a motion to dismiss de novo. Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 438-39 (6th Cir. 2008).

b. TEXT/CONGRESSIONAL INTENT

Our review must begin with the plain language of the statute because the " language of the statute is the starting point for interpretation, and it should also be the ending point if the plain meaning of that language is clear." United States v. Choice, 201 F.3d 837, 840 (6th Cir. 2000); see also Gross v. FBL Fin. Servs., Inc., 557 U.S. 167, 175, 129 S.Ct. 2343, 174 L.Ed.2d 119 (2009) (" Statutory construction must begin with the language employed by Congress and the assumption that the ordinary meaning of that language accurately expresses the legislative purpose." (citation omitted)). 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a) provides: No person shall discriminate against any individual because such individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by this chapter or because such individual made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this chapter.

(emphasis added). As the ADA does not define " individual," it should be interpreted by the common usage of the word. See Perrin v. United States, 444 U.S. 37, 42, 100 S.Ct. 311, 62 L.Ed.2d 199 (1979) ( " A fundamental canon of statutory construction is that, unless otherwise defined, words will be interpreted as taking their ordinary, contemporary, common meaning." ).

The Supreme Court recently provided guidance on the ordinary meaning of the word " individual" in Mohamad v. Palestinian Auth., 566 U.S. 449, 132 S.Ct. 1702, 182 L.Ed.2d 720 (2012). The Court held that " [t]he ordinary meaning of the word, fortified by its statutory context, persuades us that the [Torture Victim Protection] Act authorizes suit against natural persons alone." Id. at 1706. The Court first noted that " 'individual' ordinarily means '[a] human being, a person.'" Id. at 1707 (quoting 7 The Oxford English Dictionary 880 (2d ed. 1989)). It also noted that the term " individual" is used in everyday parlance as denoting a human being, and the Court, itself, " routinely uses 'individual' to denote a natural person, and in particular to distinguish between a natural person and a corporation." Id. Other courts faced with a similar task have also held that "...

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