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Powell v. Wheaton WIC Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

February 11, 2019



          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Valene Powell scheduled an appointment at the Wheaton WIC Center operated by CCI Health & Wellness Services (“CCI”)[1] for January 18, 2018, with the understanding that CCI would provide an American Sign Language (“ASL”) interpreter for her. Compl. 6, ECF No. 1.[2] She arrived for her January 18, 2018 appointment, waited thirty minutes, and then was informed “no interpreter today, ” so she left. After that visit, CCI called Powell repeatedly over the course of several months, but she has refused to take their calls and states that she “won't call them back.” Id. at 8; see also Pl.'s Aug. 28, 2018 Ltr., ECF No. 29 (stating that CCI persists in calling her). In this lawsuit, Powell alleges that CCI violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117, by failing to provide an ASL interpreter for her. Id. at 7- 9. As I best I can discern, she seeks monetary damages of $100, 000; it is unclear whether she also seeks injunctive relief. Id. at 5.

         Pending is CCI's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 22.[3] As CCI asserts, Title III of the ADA does not provide for monetary damages, and insofar as Powell may seek injunctive relief, she has not established that she has standing to bring a claim for injunctive relief, given that she refuses to communicate with CCI. Accordingly, I will grant CCI's Motion and dismiss this case.

         Standard of Review

         CCI contends that Powell cannot state a claim for monetary damages and this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Powell's claim for injunctive relief because Plaintiff lacks standing. Def.'s Mem. 1.[4] When a defendant moves to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, asserting a facial challenge that “a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based, ” as CCI does here, “the facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true and the plaintiff, in effect, is afforded the same procedural protection as [s]he would receive under a 12(b)(6) consideration.” Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982); see Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992) (noting that, on a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's pleading of the elements of standing are “presum[ed] [to] embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim” (quoting Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 889 (1990))).

         Thus, “the facts alleged in the complaint are taken as true, and the motion must be denied if the complaint alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter jurisdiction.” Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009); see In re KBR, Inc., Burn Pit Litig., 925 F.Supp.2d 752, 758 (D. Md. 2013) (quoting Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192). This Court must act “on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007) (citations omitted). The burden is on the plaintiff to establish jurisdiction. Sherill v. Mayor of Balt., 31 F.Supp.3d 750, 763 (D. Md. 2014) (citing Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999)).


         As noted, Powell brings an ADA claim for monetary damages and perhaps injunctive relief. Title III of the ADA states that “[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182. CCI acknowledges that it falls within the purview of Title III of the ADA. Def.'s Mem. 7. Nevertheless, “it is well established that Title III does not create a private cause of action for money damages.” Bray v. Marriott Int'l, 158 F.Supp.3d 441, 444 (D. Md. 2016) (quoting Estate of Saylor v. Regal Cinemas, Inc., 54 F.Supp.3d 409, 429-30 (D. Md. 2014) (citing Goodwin v. C.N.J., Inc., 436 F.3d 44, 50 (1st Cir. 2006) (collecting cases))). Accordingly, Powell fails to state a claim against CCI for money damages under the ADA. See id.; Saylor, 54 F.Supp.3d at 444.

         Insofar as Powell seeks some form of injunctive relief, CCI contends that she lacks standing because the Court cannot redress her injuries. This Court may “adjudicate only actual cases and controversies.” Zaycer v. Sturm Foods, Inc., 896 F.Supp.2d 399, 407 (D. Md. 2012) (citing U.S. Const. art. III, § 2; O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 493 (1974); Bishop v. Bartlett, 575 F.3d 419, 423 (4th Cir. 2009)). Standing, which addresses who may sue, is one facet of this “constraint of Article III.” See South Carolina v. United States, __F.3d__, No. 18-1684, 2019 WL 124267, at *7 (4th Cir. Jan. 8, 2019) (quoting Scoggins v. Lee's Crossing Homeowners Ass'n, 718 F.3d 262, 269 (4th Cir. 2013)). A plaintiff has standing if

(1) [the plaintiff] has suffered an “injury in fact” that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

Zaycer, 896 F.Supp.2d at 408 (quoting Bishop, 575 F.3d at 423); see also Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560- 61 (same).

         A plaintiff's allegations satisfy the redressability prong if it is “likely, and not merely speculative, that a favorable decision will remedy the injury.” Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Gaston Cooper Recycling Corp., 204 F.3d 149, 154 (4th Cir. 2000). Powell claims that CCI violated the ADA by failing to provide an ASL interpreter for her on January 18, 2018. Compl. 7-9. CCI argues that, given that Powell said she “won't call them back, ” id. at 8, there is no remedy the Court can offer. As CCI correctly asserts, Def.'s Mem. 8:

[W]hen a plaintiff requests injunctive relief, he “must allege and prove that there is a ‘real and immediate threat' that he will be wronged again.” Daniels v. Arcade, 477 Fed.Appx. 125, 129 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Bryant v. Cheney, 924 F.2d 525, 529 (4th Cir. 1991)). This requirement means a plaintiff must “state a plausible allegation that there is a likelihood that he will suffer future harm, ” Daniels, 477 Fed.Appx. at 130, and that likelihood must be greater than a “mere possibility.” Nat'l All. for Accessibility, Inc. v. CMG Bethesda Owner LLC, Civil No. JFM-12-1864, 2012 WL 6108244, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 7, 2012). Prior injury constitutes probative “evidence bearing on whether there is a real and immediate threat of repeated injury.” Lyons, 461 U.S. at 102. But prior injury itself is insufficient; the complaint must 1) “describe [plaintiff's] concrete, specific plans to return to the locus of the injury” and 2) “indicate that the plaintiff is likely to suffer the same injuries upon return.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 564; see also Millbank Hotel Partners, 2013 WL 653955, at *4.

Nanni v. Aberdeen Marketplace, Inc., No. WMN-15-2570, 2016 WL 2347932, at *2 (D. Md. May 4, 2016) (footnote omitted), vacated on other grounds, 878 F.3d 447 (4th Cir. 2017);[5]see also Nanni v. Aberdeen Marketplace, Inc., 878 F.3d 447, 454 (4th Cir. 2017) (“As further mandated by Lujan, because Nanni is seeking prospective declaratory and injunctive relief rather than damages, the allegations in the Complaint of past injuries ‘do[ ] not in [themselves] show a present case or controversy ... if unaccompanied by any ...

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