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Brintley v. Belle River Community Credit Union

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

July 20, 2018

Karla Brintley, Plaintiff,
v.
Belle River Community Credit Union, Defendant.

          Anthony P. Patti U.S. Magistrate Judge

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [6]; DENYING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE RESPONSE [34]

          ARTHUR J. TARNOW SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Karla Brintley, a permanently blind woman, commenced this action against Defendant Belle River Community Credit Union alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C.§ 12181 et seq., and the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”), M.C.L. § 37.110 et seq.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's website contains access barriers which prevent visually-impaired individuals, like herself, from equal enjoyment of and access to Defendant's services.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [6] filed on February 5, 2018. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a Michigan resident who is permanently blind and uses a screen reader to access the internet. Screen-reading software vocalizes visual information and is the only method by which a blind person may independently use the internet. Defendant is a Michigan credit union that operates a website, brccu.com, which provides information about its locations, services, and amenities. Plaintiff has tried several times to access Defendant's website, but has faced barriers which have hindered her from effectively browsing for locations, amenities, and services and deterred her from visiting Defendant's branches.

         On December 5, 2017, Plaintiff, through counsel, commenced four separate actions in the Eastern District of Michigan against different Michigan credit unions alleging violations of the ADA and the PWDCRA. The cases were assigned to this Court as companion cases.

         On February 5, 2018, Defendant filed this Motion to Dismiss [6] pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The Motion is fully briefed.[1] The Court held a hearing on the Motion on May 21, 2018.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of standing. “Standing is thought of as a ‘jurisdictional' matter, and a plaintiff's lack of standing is said to deprive a court of jurisdiction.” Ward v. Alternative Health Delivery Sys., Inc., 261 F.3d 624, 626 (6th Cir. 2001) (internal citation omitted). “[P]laintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion.” Mich. S. R.R. Co. v. Branch & St. Joseph Cntys. Rail Users Ass'n., Inc., 287 F.3d 568, 573 (6th Cir. 2002).

         Defendant also moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “To survive a motion to dismiss, [plaintiff] must allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Traverse Bay Area Intermediate Sch. Dist. v. Mich. Dep't of Educ., 615 F.3d 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must “assume the veracity of [the plaintiff's] well-pleaded factual allegations and determine whether the plaintiff is entitled to legal relief as a matter of law.” McCormick v. Miami Univ., 693 F.3d 654, 658 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Plaintiff has standing to pursue this action

         “Federal courts may exercise jurisdiction only where an actual ‘case or controversy' exists.” Parsons v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 801 F.3d 701, 709-10 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing U.S. Const. art. III, § 2). “Courts have explained the case or controversy requirement through a series of justiciability doctrines, including, perhaps the most important, that a litigant must have standing to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts.” Id. at 710 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must allege that: she suffered an injury in fact; a causal connection exists between the injury and conduct complained of; and it is likely the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (internal citations omitted).

         “The Supreme Court has instructed [courts] to take a broad view of constitutional standing in civil rights cases, especially where, as under the ADA, private enforcement suits ‘are the primary method of obtaining compliance with the Act.'” Doran v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 524 F.3d 1034, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Trafficante v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 409 U.S. 205, 209 (1972)).

         A. Injury-in-fact

         “The injury-in-fact requirement requires a plaintiff to show that he or she suffered ‘an invasion of a legally protected interest' that is ‘concrete and particularized' and ‘actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.'” Spokeo, ...


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