McInnis-Misenor v. Maine Medical Center

Citation319 F.3d 63
Decision Date11 February 2003
Docket NumberNo. 02-2086.,02-2086.
PartiesKathryn MCINNIS-MISENOR; Brett Misenor, Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. MAINE MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant, Appellee.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)

Deirdre M. Smith, with whom was Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon on the brief for appellants.

William J. Kayatta, Jr., with whom were Margaret Coughlin LePage, Joanne H. Pearson and Pierce Atwood on the brief for appellee.

Before BOUDIN, Chief Judge, TORRUELLA and LYNCH, Circuit Judges.

LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

Kathryn McInnis-Misenor, age 43, suffers from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and uses a wheelchair. She and her husband are attempting to have a second child, but she is not yet pregnant. Anticipating that she will become pregnant, they brought suit in federal court in October 2001. The complaint, as amended in March 2002, alleged that the Maine Medical Center ("MMC") was in violation of the architectural barrier provisions of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12182 (2000), and the Maine Human Rights Act, Me.Rev.Stat. Ann. tit. 5, § 4592 (West 2002). They seek an injunction to force MMC — the nearest hospital that handles high risk deliveries (as hers would be) — to move walls in the Family Center to make the bathrooms wheelchair-accessible. The Family Center is an after-birth recovery area of rooms usually used, when available, by newly delivered mothers. If such rooms are not available, the mothers remain in the newer Birth Center rooms, in a different wing of MMC, where the delivery actually takes place.

McInnis-Misenor has reason for concern about her access to the Family Center. She gave birth to her first child at MMC in November 1999. At that time, MMC spent $5,300 to reconfigure a private room in the Birth Center to make it available to her. Due to complications associated with her giving birth, she was unable to transfer to the Family Center and remained in the Birth Center for the duration of her recovery. Even if she had not suffered those complications, moving her to the Family Center was not a viable option because no room in that wing had toilet and shower facilities configured to be wheelchair-accessible.

In April 2000, McInnis-Misenor filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging violations of the Maine Human Rights Act, based on her November 1999 experience. The Commission investigated and issued a report, which we shall refer to later, and which the district court considered. Among the claims made to the Commission was that MMC failed to remove architectural barriers in the Family Center.

A magistrate judge, acting on MMC's Rule 12(b)(6) motion, recommended that the action be dismissed because the plaintiffs did not at present have standing to bring their claims. McInnis-Misenor v. Me. Med. Ctr., 211 F.Supp.2d 256, 257 (D.Me.2002). The district judge agreed and dismissed the action, without prejudice, on July 30, 2002. Plaintiffs appeal.


Our review of the decision to dismiss for lack of standing is de novo. Mangual v. Rotger-Sabat, 317 F.3d 45, 56, 2003 U.S.App. LEXIS 857, at *14 (1st Cir.2003).

Normally on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, only the complaint is reviewed. However, where standing is at issue, it is within the trial court's power to allow or to require the plaintiff to provide by affidavit or amended complaint "further particularized allegations of fact deemed supportive of plaintiff's standing." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975). Here the district court also considered the Commission Report.1

The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden to establish standing. Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 167-68, 117 S.Ct. 1154, 137 L.Ed.2d 281 (1997). The plaintiffs initially argue that the district court erred in not taking all factual inferences from the complaint in their favor, as is required on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. The argument is misplaced. We and the district court both have assumed it to be true that McInnis-Misenor is disabled, that plaintiffs are attempting to have another child, that they will use MMC (a place of public accommodation) for any delivery, and that at present the Family Center cannot accommodate her. But Rule 12(b)(6) does not require we make the inferences necessary to establish that there is federal jurisdiction.

A. Standing: Constitutional and Prudential

Federal courts are confined by Article III of the Constitution to deciding only actual cases or controversies. Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984). Federal courts can only decide a "live grievance." Am. Postal Workers Union v. Frank, 968 F.2d 1373, 1374 (1st Cir.1992) (quoting Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 110, 89 S.Ct. 956, 22 L.Ed.2d 113 (1969)). Standing is thus a threshold question in every case, requiring the court to determine "whether the plaintiff has `alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy' as to warrant [ ] invocation of federal-court jurisdiction." See Warth, 422 U.S. at 498-99, 95 S.Ct. 2197 (quoting Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962)). The constitutional standing inquiry has three elements. A litigant bears the burden of showing "that he personally has suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant, and that the injury fairly can be traced to the challenged action and is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision." See Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472, 102 S.Ct. 752, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982) (internal quotations omitted). As this court has noted, "Article III standing is largely — albeit not entirely — a practical jurisprudence." N.H. Hemp Council, Inc. v. Marshall, 203 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir.2000) (citing 13 C.A. Wright A.R. Miller & E.H. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3531.1, at 352, 355-56, 362-63 (2d ed. 1984)).

The plaintiffs' claim here involves a threat of future injury.2 The parties dispute the degree of threat presented by these facts to the plaintiffs' legal interests. Plaintiffs must show that the threatened injury is impending and concrete, see Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 472, 102 S.Ct. 752, sufficient to constitute "injury in fact." There must be some immediacy or imminence to the threatened injury. See Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101-02, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983); see also Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155, 110 S.Ct. 1717, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990) (quoting Lyons, 461 U.S. at 101-02, 103 S.Ct. 1660).

The standing inquiry "involves both constitutional limitations on federal-court jurisdiction and prudential limitations on its exercise." Warth, 422 U.S. at 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197; see also Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249, 255-56, 73 S.Ct. 1031, 97 L.Ed. 1586 (1953) (describing Court's "complementary rule of self-restraint for its own governance" that exists alongside constitutional restriction on jurisdiction). Federal courts have identified a number of prudential concerns regarding the proper exercise of federal jurisdiction. Three of these areas are well-established: (1) the complaint must "fall within the zone of interests protected by the law invoked"; (2) the plaintiff "must assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties"; and (3) the suit must present more than "abstract questions of wide public significance which amount to generalized grievances, pervasively shared and most appropriately addressed in the representative branches." N.H. Right to Life Political Action Comm. v. Gardner, 99 F.3d 8, 15 (1st Cir.1996) (quoting Allen, 468 U.S. at 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315; Warth, 422 U.S. at 499, 95 S.Ct. 2197; Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 475, 102 S.Ct. 752); see also Adams v. Watson, 10 F.3d 915, 918 n. 7 (1st Cir.1993); United States v. AVX Corp., 962 F.2d 108, 114 (1st Cir.1992).

Prudential standing concerns, unlike constitutional ones, can be abrogated by an act of Congress. "Congress may grant an express right of action to persons who otherwise would be barred by prudential standing rules." Warth, 422 U.S. at 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197. We start with the language of the ADA. The enforcement provisions of Title III of the ADA are set forth in § 308, which provides:

The remedies and procedures set forth in section 204(a) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C.2000a-3(a)) are the remedies and procedures this title provides to any person who is being subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of this title or who has reasonable grounds for believing that such person is about to be subjected to discrimination in violation of section 303. Nothing in this section shall require a person with a disability to engage in a futile gesture if such person has actual notice that a person or organization covered by this title does not intend to comply with its provisions. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a)(1). McInnis-Misenor is not "being subjected to discrimination," so her claim must rest on whether she "has reasonable grounds for believing [she] is about to be subjected to discrimination." The statutory language "about to be subjected to discrimination" dovetails with the usual prudential analysis as to whether McInnis-Misenor's claims are too contingent and premature.

McInnis-Misenor cites some ADA cases to us, all factually distinguishable. This is not, for example, a case in which the existence of architectural barriers is the only reason the ADA plaintiff has not returned for services. E.g., Parr v. L&L Drive-Inn Rest., 96 F.Supp.2d 1065, 1079-80 (D.Hawai`i 2000) (finding standing for a plaintiff prevented from using fast food chain restaurant due to various architectural barriers because of his sincere intent to return as evidenced by his past...

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