Hubbard v. Twin Oaks Health and Rehabilitation, CIV.S 03 725 LKK/KJM.

Citation408 F.Supp.2d 923
Decision Date12 November 2004
Docket NumberNo. CIV.S 03 725 LKK/KJM.,CIV.S 03 725 LKK/KJM.
PartiesDale M. HUBBARD, Plaintiff, v. TWIN OAKS HEALTH AND REHABILITATION CENTER; Careage Healthcare of California, Inc., and Sunbridge Corporation, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California

Adam Sorrells, Scottlynn J. Hubbard, IV, Law Offices of Lynn Hubbard III, Chico, CA, for Plaintiff.

Brendan J. Begley, Carl J. Calnero, Porter, Scott, Weiberg and Delehant, Sacramento, CA, for Defendants.

ORDER

KARLTON, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff, Dale M. Hubbard ("Hubbard") brings this action against defendants Twin Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center ("Twin Oaks"), Careage Heath Care of California, Inc. ("Careage"), and Sunbridge Corp. (collectively "defendants") alleging that they discriminated against her on the basis of her disability. She seeks to recover, inter alia, pursuant to the Unruh Civil Rights Act ("Unruh Act"), Cal. Civ. Code §§ 51 et seq., and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("Rehab Act"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 790 et seq. This matter is before the court on plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

I. FACTS1

The Twin Oaks Nursing Facility ("Twin Oaks") is a skilled nursing facility that was constructed in 1987. Statement of Undisputed Facts ("SUF") ¶ 1. Plaintiff is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair to travel in public. SUF ¶ 2. Her mother was a resident at Twin Oaks from late December of 2002 to early February of 2003, SUF ¶ 8, during which time plaintiff visited Twin Oaks at least 15 times. SUF ¶¶ 14, 16. Plaintiff alleges, and defendants dispute, that she encountered architectural barriers at Twin Oaks that denied her full and equal access to the nursing home. One of her complaints concerns two ramps in the facility's parking lot which are allegedly too steep. SUF ¶ 10. According to plaintiff, one of those ramps also projects onto the access aisle of the accessible parking space, making it difficult to stabilize her wheelchair upon arrival. SUF ¶ 11. Other alleged barriers concern the soap and towel dispensers in Twin Oaks' restrooms. SUF ¶ 13.

While defendants dispute that there are architectural barriers at Twin Oaks, they have stipulated that remedy of specific barriers, if determined to be violative of the statute, are readily achievable. SUF ¶ 19.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS UNDER FED. R. CIV. P. 56

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); See also Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970); Sicor Limited v. Cetus Corp., 51 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir.1995).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party

[A]lways bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

"[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the `pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See id. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); See also First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968); Sicor Limited, 51 F.3d at 853. In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the denials of its pleadings, but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n. 11, 106 S.Ct. 1348; See also First Nat'l Bank, 391 U.S. at 289, 88 S.Ct. 1575; Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 954 (9th Cir.1998). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Owens v. Local No. 169, Assoc. of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, 971 F.2d 347, 355 (9th Cir.1992) (quoting T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.1987)), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49, 106 S.Ct. 2505; see also Cline v. Industrial Maintenance Engineering & Contracting Co., 200 F.3d 1223, 1228 (9th Cir.2000).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." First Nat'l Bank, 391 U.S. at 290, 88 S.Ct. 1575; See also T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to `pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments); see also International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftsman Local Union No. 20 v. Martin Jaska, Inc., 752 F.2d 1401, 1405 (9th Cir.1985).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Rule 56(c); See also In re Citric Acid Litigation, 191 F.3d 1090, 1093 (9th Cir.1999). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party, see Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962) (per curiam)); See also Headwaters Forest Defense v. County of Humboldt, 211 F.3d 1121, 1132 (9th Cir.2000). Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D.Cal.1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir.1987).

Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no `genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (citation omitted).

III. UNRUH CIVIL RIGHTS ACT

Plaintiff seeks summary judgment pursuant to the Unruh Act by virtue of the defendants' alleged violation of Title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). I turn to that contention.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act, codified in California Civil Code § 51, provides that "[a]ll persons ... are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever." Cal. Civ.Code § 51(b). The purpose of the Unruh Act "is to compel a recognition of the equality of citizens in the right to the peculiar service offered" by the entities covered by the acts. Marina Point, Ltd. v. Wolfson, 30 Cal.3d 721, 737, 180 Cal.Rptr. 496, 640 P.2d 115 (1982)(quoting Piluso v. Spencer, 36 Cal. App. 416, 419, 172 P. 412 (1918)); see also Strother v. Southern California Permanente Medical Group, 79 F.3d 859 (9th Cir.1996).

In effectuating its long-stated policy of ridding the state of discrimination, see Warfield v. Peninsula Golf & Country Club, 10 Cal.4th 594, 42 Cal.Rptr.2d 50, 896 P.2d 776 (1995), the California legislature amended the Unruh Act in 1992 to broaden the scope of its protection. As amended, § 51 provides that "[a] violation of the right of any individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ... shall also constitute a violation of this section." Cal. Civ.Code § 51(f). It is pursuant to this subsection that plaintiff seeks to recover. Accordingly, to determine if plaintiff may be granted summary judgment on her Unruh Act claim, I must examine whether she can establish a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").

Before reaching the merits of that claim, however, I pause to address a preliminary issue raised by defendants. They assert that plaintiff is precluded from showing a violation of the ADA because this court previously dismissed that claim. For the reasons explained below,...

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