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Saar v. Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 12, 2018

WILLIAM SAAR, Plaintiff,
v.
TANGER FACTORY OUTLET CENTERS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ELLEN S. CARMODY U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (ECF No. 26). The parties have consented to proceed in this Court for all further proceedings, including trial and an order of final judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). By Order of Reference, the Honorable Janet T. Neff referred this case to the undersigned. For the reasons discussed herein, Defendants' motion is granted and this action dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action on January 13, 2017, alleging that Byron Center Tanger Outlet Mall was constructed in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges in his Amended Complaint that “handicapped parking is not closest to the entrances and there was not one single door that had any way to open without someone holding it.” Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief. Defendants now move to dismiss the present action on the ground that Plaintiff lacks standing. Plaintiff has failed to timely respond to Defendants' motion and neither offers justification for his untimely response nor seeks leave to have his untimely response considered by the Court.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, asserted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), is evaluated pursuant to the standard applicable to motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). See Heinrich v. Waiting Angels Adoption Services, Inc., 668 F.3d 393, 403 (6th Cir. 2012). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint by evaluating the assertions therein in a light most favorable to Plaintiff to determine whether such states a valid claim for relief. See In re NM Holdings Co., LLC, 622 F.3d 613, 618 (6th Cir. 2000).

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted unless the “[f]actual allegations [are] enough to raise a right for relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). As the Supreme Court more recently held, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). This plausibility standard “is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” If the complaint simply pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'” Id. As the Court further observed:

Two working principles underlie our decision in Twombly. First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. . .Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. . .Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the wellpleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not “show[n]” - “that the pleader is entitled to relief.”

Id. at 678-79 (internal citations omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         Article III, § 2 of the United States Constitution provides that the “judicial Power” of the United States extends only to “Cases” and “Controversies.” Because the terms “case” and “controversy” conceivably encompass many matters more appropriately addressed by the executive or legislative branches of government, these terms have been interpreted as referring to those “cases and controversies of the sort traditionally amenable to, and resolved by, the judicial process.” Steel Company v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 102 (1998). One element of the case or controversy requirement is that plaintiffs must establish that they have standing to pursue a particular claim. See Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 818 (1997).

         To establish standing to litigate a particular matter, a plaintiff must satisfy three requirements. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). First, the plaintiff must have suffered an “injury in fact.” The plaintiff must next establish “a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of.” In other words, the plaintiff's injury must be “fairly. . .trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant, and not. . .th[e] result [of] the independent action of some third party not before the court.” Ibid. The plaintiff must also establish a likelihood that his injury will be “redressed by a favorable decision.” Id. at 561.

         The standing requirement is not to be lightly disregarded. As the Supreme Court stated, “[w]e have always insisted on strict compliance with the jurisdictional standing requirement” because “federal courts may exercise power only ‘in the last resort, and as a necessity.'” Raines, 521 U.S. at 819. Finally, Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that he has standing to assert his claims in a federal forum. See Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561.

         Where, as here, a plaintiff is seeking only injunctive relief, he must establish that he “is under threat of suffering an injury in fact.” Gaylor v. Hamilton Crossing CMBS, 582 Fed.Appx. 576, 579 (6th Cir., Sept. 4, 2014). The threat of a prospective injury “must be real and immediate and not premised upon the existence of past injuries alone.” Ibid. In the context of an ADA claim, “a plaintiff demonstrates the requisite threat of future injury where he establishes (1) a plausible intent to return to the noncompliant accommodation or ...


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