National Federation of the Blind of California et al v. Uber Technologies, Inc., No. 3:2014cv04086 - Document 37 (N.D. Cal. 2015)

Court Description: ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS Re: Dkt. No. 25 . Defendants have 14 days to answer the complaint. Case Management Conference set for 6/3/2015 10:00 AM in Courtroom A, 15th Floor, San Francisco. Signed by Judge Nathanael Cousins. (lmh, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/17/2015)
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National Federation of the Blind of California et al v. Uber Technologies, Inc. Doc. 37 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF CALIFORNIA; MICHAEL KELLY; MICHAEL HINGSON; MICHAEL PEDERSEN, Plaintiffs, 13 Case No. 14-cv-04086 NC ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS Re: Dkt. No. 25 v. 14 15 16 17 UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC.; RASIER, LLC; RASIER-CA, LLC, Defendants. The National Federation of the Blind of California and three individuals allege that 18 Uber and its California subsidiaries discriminate against blind persons by refusing to 19 transport guide dogs. Plaintiffs charge that Uber’s practices violate the Americans with 20 Disabilities Act, the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California Disabled 21 Persons Act. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint for failure to establish standing 22 and failure to state a claim, and also move for a more definite statement. Specifically, 23 defendants allege that NFBC, Hingson, and Pedersen do not have standing to sue under the 24 ADA or state law claims and that Uber is not a public accommodation under the ADA. 25 Guided by the policy of encouraging private enforcement of anti-discrimination 26 statutes, the Court finds that plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged both standing and a 27 plausible claim under the ADA and state law. Therefore, the Court DENIES the motion to 28 dismiss on all grounds. Uber must answer the complaint. Case No.: 14-cv-04086-NC Dockets.Justia.com 1 I. BACKGROUND 2 UberX is a widely available transportation service that uses mobile software 3 applications to arrange rides between passengers and Uber’s fleet of UberX drivers. First 4 Amended Complaint (“FAC”), Dkt. No. 17, at ¶ 2. To use UberX services, an individual 5 must either (1) create a user account, and provide Uber with his phone number, credit card 6 information, and email address, or (2) travel as the guest of an individual with an Uber user 7 account. FAC ¶ 29. The customer then submits a request on behalf of himself and other 8 passengers through Uber’s mobile software application. FAC ¶ 30. Once Uber identifies 9 the vehicle that will provide the customer with transportation, Uber notifies the customer via text message or through its smart phone application. FAC ¶ 30. The notification 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 includes vehicle and driver identification information and an estimated time of arrival. 12 FAC ¶ 30. When the vehicle has arrived, Uber notifies the customer, and the customer and 13 passengers may board the vehicle. FAC ¶ 30. Uber provides several different 14 transportation services in California, and UberX is one of Uber’s most cost-effective 15 transportation services. FAC ¶ 29. Those individuals who download Uber’s mobile phone 16 application agree to Uber’s terms of service, including an agreement to submit all disputes 17 to binding arbitration. Dkt. No. 25 at Exhibit A. 18 Plaintiff National Federation of the Blind of California (“NFBC”) is a nonprofit 19 association of blind Californians, which aims to achieve integration of the blind into 20 society on a basis of equality with the sighted. FAC ¶ 22. Members of NFBC use UberX 21 on Uber’s smart phone application using text-to-speech technology. FAC ¶ 40. 22 Additionally, members of NFBC use UberX as guests of UberX customers, without 23 creating their own Uber account. FAC ¶ 43. 24 For example, Manveen Chahal is a NFBC member and does not have an Uber 25 account. FAC ¶ 43. On May 21, 2014, Jamey Gump used the Uber mobile app to request 26 an UberX vehicle for himself and Chahal. FAC ¶ 43. Both men had service animals with 27 them. FAC ¶ 43. When the UberX vehicle pulled up to the curb, Gump and Chahal 28 attempted to enter the vehicle and opened a passenger door. FAC ¶ 43. The UberX driver Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 2 1 began shouting “no dogs!” and cursed at the men. FAC ¶ 43. The UberX driver left 2 without transporting Gump and Chahal. FAC ¶ 43. 3 Plaintiff Michael Kelly is blind, uses a guide dog, and is a member of NFBC. FAC 4 ¶ 66. Kelly travels with his girlfriend, Brooklyn Rodden, who is also blind and uses a 5 guide dog. FAC ¶ 66. Rodden has an Uber account that she uses to request UberX 6 vehicles for herself and Kelly. FAC ¶ 66. On September 13, 2014, an UberX driver 7 refused to transport Rodden and Kelly because of their guide dogs. FAC ¶ 66. Both 8 intend to keep using UberX transportation services. FAC ¶ 66. 9 Plaintiff Michael Hingson is blind, uses a guide dog, and is a member of NFBC. FAC ¶ 67. Hingson does not have an Uber account and has not used UberX. FAC ¶ 67. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 On October 9-12, 2014, Hingson attended the annual state convention for NFBC in El 12 Segundo, California. FAC ¶ 67. There, Hingson met attendees with service animals who 13 were being denied transportation by UberX to and from the convention hotel. FAC ¶ 67. 14 Hingson was deterred from using UberX on December 5, 2013, because he could not 15 afford to be delayed by an UberX driver refusing to take his guide dog. FAC ¶ 67. 16 Hingson would like to use UberX in the future, but does not believe that UberX is a 17 reliable source of transportation. FAC ¶ 67. 18 Plaintiff Michael Pedersen is blind and uses a guide dog. FAC ¶ 73. On September 19 12, 2014, Pedersen’s wife used her Uber account to request an UberX for Pedersen. FAC 20 ¶ 73. Pedersen heard the UberX driver pulled up in front of his home, but the driver 21 refused to transport Pedersen’s guide dog. FAC ¶ 73. As a result, Pedersen missed his 22 connection to a commuter shuttle and was late for work. FAC ¶ 73. Pedersen would like 23 to keep using UberX without fear that he will be denied service and made late for work or 24 other appointments. FAC ¶ 73. 25 Defendant Uber Technologies, Inc. is a for-profit transportation network company. 26 FAC ¶ 27. Defendants Rasier LLC and Rasier-CA LLC are wholly-owned subsidiaries of 27 Uber Technologies, Inc. that operate within the state of California. FAC ¶ 28. Defendants 28 (collectively, “Uber”) use smart phone software applications to arrange transportation Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 3 1 between passengers and its fleet of drivers. FAC ¶ 27. Plaintiffs allege that Uber engages in discriminatory practices by permitting UberX 2 3 drivers to deny access to blind individuals and their guide dogs. Plaintiffs bring claims 4 under (1) Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) California Unruh 5 Civil Rights Act (“Unruh Act”); (3) California Disabled Persons Act (“DPA”); and (4) for 6 declaratory relief. The parties attended a hearing on the motion on March 3, 2015. All parties have 7 8 consented to this Court’s jurisdiction. Dkt. Nos. 6, 22. 9 II. DISCUSSION Uber brings a motion to dismiss on a variety of issues, boiling down to questions of 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 (1) NFBC’s associational standing to sue on behalf of its members; (2) Plaintiff Hingson’s 12 satisfaction of standing under the deterrent effect doctrine; (3) which plaintiffs are entitled 13 to bring a claim under state law theories; (4) Plaintiff Pedersen’s standing as to the 14 likelihood of future harm; and (5) whether Uber falls within the scope of the ADA’s 15 regulation as a public accommodation. The Court will first address standing challenged 16 under Rule 12(b)(1), then Uber’s motion for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e), 17 and finally, the motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). 18 19 A. Standing A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges subject matter jurisdiction, including a 20 plaintiff’s standing to sue, and the Court takes the allegations in the complaint as true. 21 Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004). The court must determine whether 22 a lack of federal jurisdiction appears from the face of the complaint itself. Thornhill 23 Publ’g Co. v. General Tel. Elec., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979). “A party invoking the 24 federal court’s jurisdiction has the burden of proving the actual existence of subject matter 25 jurisdiction.” Thompson v. McCombe, 99 F.3d 352, 353 (9th Cir. 1996). 26 “Whether a party has a sufficient stake in an otherwise justiciable controversy to 27 obtain judicial resolution of that controversy is what has traditionally been referred to as 28 the question of standing to sue.” Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 731-32 (1972). Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 4 1 Standing under Article III of the Constitution has three basic elements: (1) an “injury in 2 fact,” which is neither conjectural nor hypothetical; (2) causation, such that a causal 3 connection between the alleged injury and offensive conduct is established; and (3) 4 redressability, or a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. 5 Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). 6 “The question whether the litigant is a ‘proper party to request an adjudication of a 7 particular issue,’ is one within the power of Congress to determine.” Sierra Club, 405 U.S. 8 at 732 n.3 (1972) (citing Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 100 (1968)). When private 9 enforcement suits “are the primary method of obtaining compliance” with a civil rights act, such as the ADA, courts must take a “broad view of constitutional standing.” Doran v. 7- 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Eleven, Inc., 524 F.3d 1034, 1039 (9th Cir. 2008)(citing Trafficante v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 12 409 U.S. 205, 209 (1972)). 13 14 1. NFBC’s Associational Standing Under the ADA The test for associational standing is set out in Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. 15 Com’n, 432 U.S. 333, 342 (1977): an association has standing when (1) its members would 16 otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (2) the interest it seeks to protect are 17 germane to the organization’s purpose; and (3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief 18 requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit. In Hunt, the 19 Court stated that claims for declaratory and injunctive relief do not require individualized 20 proof, thereby satisfying the third prong. Id. at 344. 21 NFBC meets the Hunt test for associational standing. First, the parties do not 22 contest that at least plaintiff Kelly has standing to sue in his own right. Second, NFBC set 23 out the purpose of its organization in the complaint, which is to achieve the integration of 24 the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted. FAC ¶ 22. The Court finds 25 this germane to the purpose of this litigation, which is to bring a private ADA enforcement 26 suit to ensure that blind individuals have equal access to transportation services as sighted 27 individuals. Third, because NFBC is seeking to represent its members only in claims for 28 declaratory and injunctive relief, its claim is within the realm of associational standing Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 5 1 2 envisioned by the Supreme Court in Hunt. FAC ¶¶ 123-127. Uber has presented in its briefing and at the hearing diverging case law which 3 suggests that two factual scenarios may distinguish the current case from Hunt: (a) the 4 presence of arbitration agreements covering some of NFBC’s membership; and (b) the 5 prudential consideration that NFBC is not the proper party, but rather, the individuals 6 should be tasked with representing their own claims. Dkt. No. 25 at 10-12. 7 a. Arbitration Agreements 8 Uber argues that NFBC’s membership includes individuals who are bound by 9 arbitration agreements with Uber. Dkt. No. 25 at 10. Therefore, NFBC’s suit on behalf of all its members would violate the sanctity of those agreements by permitting bound 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 members to litigate in court via their proxy, NFBC. Id. at 11. 12 The Court recognizes that “[a]n association has standing to sue or defend in such 13 capacity, however, only if its members would have standing in their own right.” Arizonans 14 for Official English v. Arizona, 530 U.S. 43, 65-66 (1977). Uber draws the Court’s 15 attention to Pa. Chiropractic Ass’n v. Blue Cross Blue Shield Ass’n, 713 F. Supp. 2d 734, 16 744-45 (N.D. Ill. 2010), where the district court considered similar questions of whether an 17 association lacked standing because some members of its association were bound by 18 arbitration agreements. There, the Court found the third Hunt factor weighed in favor of 19 individual claims because the association could not represent those members bound by 20 arbitration agreements. Id. However, even under those circumstances, the Court 21 recognized that the association would have standing to pursue claims on behalf of only the 22 non-bound members. Id at n.6. Additionally, all of the members of the Pennsylvania 23 Chiropractic Association were seeking monetary relief. Id. at 737-38. 24 Here, NFBC alleges that it only brings the claim on behalf of members who would 25 have standing (therefore, the non-bound members), and it does not seek monetary relief. 26 Dkt. No. 28 at 4; see generally, Ass’n Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Coal. for Econ. 27 Equity, 950 F.2d 1401, 1409 (9th Cir. 1991) (finding that individual participation is not 28 required even if there is disagreement among the organization’s members when the Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 6 1 organization seeks declaratory and injunctive relief). The Court finds Pennsylvania 2 Chiropractic Association distinguishable from this case, and thus not persuasive in 3 establishing that an exception to Hunt should apply. 4 5 b. Prudential Considerations In addition to constitutional standing requirements, the Court must also weigh 6 prudential considerations, inquiring whether the plaintiff seeks to protect another person’s 7 legal rights. Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984). A few district court cases have 8 found that an organization is not the proper party to bring a claim where the organization 9 was “merely repeating the claims” of the individuals. Access 123, Inc. v. Markey’s Lobster Pool, Inc., 2001 WL 920051 at *4 (D.N.H. Aug. 14, 2001); Disabled in Action of Metro. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 N.Y. v. Trump Int’l Hotel & Tower, 2003 WL 1751785 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 2, 2003). In those 12 cases, the organization only sought to represent the only one or two individuals who were 13 plaintiffs as well. Id. Here, NFBC has joined with three individuals and claims to 14 represent the interest of its membership at large. NFBC is not simply standing in for one 15 of its members, but rather represents a broad membership base, which it alleges has 16 sufficiently been injured by Uber. FAC ¶ 22. Therefore, the Court does not believe that 17 prudential considerations preclude NFBC’s associational standing. 18 Uber also argues that NFBC does not have standing to sue in its own right. Dkt. 19 No. at 7-8. The Court declines to reach this issue because “even if the organization has not 20 suffered injury to itself, it may have standing to assert the rights of its members.” Warth v. 21 Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 511 (1975). Therefore, an association need not prove injury to itself. 22 Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind v. Target Corp., 582 F. Supp. 2d 1185, 1191-92 (N.D. Cal. 2007). 23 NFBC has associational standing, so does not need to demonstrate standing to sue in its 24 own right. 25 26 2. Hingson’s Standing Under the ADA In order to establish an injury in fact, the ADA does not require “a person with a 27 disability to engage in a futile gesture if such person has actual notice that a person or 28 organization . . . does not intend to comply.” 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a)(1); Pickern v. Holiday Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 7 1 Quality Foods Inc., 293 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 2002). “Allegations that show plausible 2 intention or desire to return to the place but for barriers to access are sufficient.” Pickern, 3 293 F.3d at 1138. Interpreting Pickern, the Ninth Circuit clarified, “if a plaintiff can show 4 either that he was deterred from visiting the accommodation on specific past occasions 5 when he otherwise would have visited it because of the known barriers there . . . he has 6 established an injury in fact.” Doran v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 524 F.3d 1034, 1041 n.4 (9th Cir. 7 2008). 8 9 In Disabled in Action, 2003 WL 1751785 at *7 n.4, the district court surveyed nationwide cases that considered the “intent to return” requirement and found that generally, “courts have held that plaintiffs lack standing to seek injunctive relief under the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 ADA when they have not stated an intention or desire to return . . . or have failed to show a 12 likelihood of discrimination should they return to that place.” Therefore, at the pleading 13 stage, a plaintiff must allege (1) actual notice of discriminatory practices; (2) specific 14 occasions when he was deterred from visiting the accommodation; (3) an intent to return; 15 and (4) a likelihood of continued discrimination. 16 Here, Hingson alleges that “he has specific and general knowledge of the 17 experiences of multiple Uber passengers with service animals who have been denied 18 access.” FAC ¶ 67. Specifically, he alleges that during the annual state convention for 19 NFBC in El Segundo, California on October 9-12, 2014, he met “attendees with service 20 animals who were experiencing denials when attempting to use UberX to travel to and 21 from the convention hotel.” FAC ¶ 67. In addition, he lists a number of specific dates and 22 instances when he was deterred from using UberX. FAC ¶¶ 68-71. Hingson alleges that 23 he would like to use UberX on March 9, 2015 during a business trip in Sacramento, but is 24 deterred based on his belief of continued discrimination. FAC ¶ 72. 25 Uber argues that Hingson has not sufficiently demonstrated an injury in fact 26 because he never attempted to use any Uber vehicles. Dkt. No. 25 at 14. In addition, Uber 27 challenges Hingson’s ability to demonstrate “actual notice” of Uber’s alleged 28 discriminatory practices that would be sufficient to invoke the Pickern “deterrence theory” Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 8 1 because not all Uber drivers turn away blind individuals and their service animals. Id. 2 The Court notes that the factual scenario presented here is different than that 3 discussed in Pickern and Doran. Those cases envisioned physical barriers that prevented a 4 disabled person from gaining equal access, which would be present until removed. Here, 5 Hingson cannot know with certainty whether an Uber driver will accept or reject him and 6 his service animal. However, the Court is guided by the policy emphasized in Doran. 7 In Doran, the Ninth Circuit reasoned that a plaintiff need only allege one instance 8 of ADA violation to achieve standing, but could then challenge other ADA violations 9 found in the course of discovery. 524 F.3d at 1047. The Court noted that “a rule limiting plaintiff to challenging the barriers he or she had encountered or personally knew about 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 would burden business and other places of public accommodation with more ADA 12 litigation, encourage piecemeal compliance with the ADA, and ultimately thwart the 13 ADA’s remedial goals of eliminating widespread discrimination against the disabled into 14 the mainstream American life.” Id. 15 The ADA directs this Court to relax its standard for injury in fact in order to 16 discourage both piecemeal litigation and futile attempts at access. Hingson does not need 17 to use Uber’s services and risk being turned away when he has knowledge that disabled 18 individuals with service animals have been turned away, and he believes there is a 19 likelihood of continued discrimination. Accordingly, the Court finds that Hingson has 20 alleged sufficient facts in the complaint, taken as true at the pleading stage, to demonstrate 21 that he had actual notice of Uber’s alleged discriminatory practice and that he was in fact 22 deterred from using Uber’s service. 23 24 25 26 3. Unruh Act Claims and the DPA Uber argues that NFBC and Hingson are not “aggrieved persons” under Unruh and DPA, so do not have standing to assert those claims. Dkt. No. 25 at 18-20. Plaintiffs’ second and third claims are state law claims under the California Unruh 27 Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code §§ 51, 52) and the California Disabled Persons Act 28 (California Civil Code §§ 54-54.3). FAC ¶¶ 105-119. The Unruh Act and the DPA Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 9 1 incorporate ADA standards, so a “violation of the ADA also constitutes a violation of both 2 the Unruh Act and the DPA.” Californians for Disability Rights v. Mervyn’s LLC, 165 3 Cal. App. 4th 571, 586 (2008); Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 731 (9th Cir. 4 2007). The Unruh Act provides declaratory and monetary relief to “aggrieved persons” 5 who suffer from discrimination on the basis of their disability. Cal. Civ. Code §§ 51, 52. 6 The DPA provides for both monetary damages and attorney’s fees. Cal. Civ. Code §§ 54- 7 54.3. Therefore, a plaintiff who has standing to, and does prevail, on an ADA claim can 8 also seek monetary relief under the Unruh Act and the DPA. 9 In fact, the California Supreme Court recognized that the DPA affords “greater protection compared to the ADA” because its “standing provision is broader than its 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 federal counterpart.” Jankey v. Song Koo Lee, 290 P.3d 187, 195 (Cal. 2012). “Under 12 state law, because a plaintiff need only show he or she is ‘aggrieved or potentially 13 aggrieved’ (§ 55) to seek injunctive relief, ‘virtually any disabled person can bring an 14 action to compel compliance with’ state disability access guarantees.” Id. (quoting 15 Urhausen v. Longs Drug Stores California, Inc., 155 Cal. App. 4th 254, 265 (2007)). 16 Notably, California courts do not require “proof that a plaintiff intends to encounter or has 17 been deterred from encountering a given architectural barrier” under the DPA. Jankey, 18 290 P.3d at 195. Although a plaintiff may have standing, he may not be sufficiently 19 injured to recover monetary damages. Urhausen, 155 Cal. App. 4th at 265-66. 20 It is clear to the Court that these state law statutory provisions are meant to work in 21 harmony with the ADA, whereby a plaintiff proving an ADA violation can seek monetary 22 recovery for (1) his actual harm, and (2) his attorney’s fees, two remedies not provided for 23 under the ADA. Additionally, the Court follows the reasoning of its own district that an 24 association establishing standing under the ADA will also have standing to pursue the state 25 law claims. Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind, 582 F. Supp. 2d at 1192; Coal. of Human Advocates 26 for K9’s and Owners v. City and Cnty. of San Francisco, No. 06-cv-1887 MMC, 2007 WL 27 641197 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 27, 2007). Therefore, the Court finds that plaintiffs NFBC and 28 Hingson do have standing to pursue their claims under both the Unruh Act and the DPA Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 10 1 because they have standing under the ADA. 2 4. Pedersen’s Standing Uber alleges that Pedersen’s standing fails because his allegations are too vague. 4 Dkt. No. 25 at 21. The complaint alleges that Pedersen’s wife uses her Uber account to 5 request rides for Pedersen. FAC ¶ 25. Pedersen alleges that he “has been denied access to 6 UberX taxi services multiple times because of his service animal.” FAC ¶ 25. 7 Additionally, Pedersen provides an account of his September 12, 2014 attempt to use 8 UberX where he was refused because of his service animal. FAC ¶ 74. Finally, Pedersen 9 claims that he would like to continue using UberX. FAC ¶ 74. As noted in the discussion 10 of plaintiff Hingson’s standing, the ADA simply requires Pedersen to allege that he intends 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 3 to use the service again and a likelihood of future discrimination. Pedersen has alleged 12 what is required to demonstrate standing under the ADA. Therefore, the Court denies Uber’s motion to dismiss based on lack of standing. 13 14 B. Uber moves for an order requiring Pedersen to provide a more definite statement 15 16 Motion For A More Definite Statement under Rule 12(e) as to his alleged harm. Dkt. No. 25 at 21. A party may move for a more definite statement when a pleading is “so vague or 17 18 ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). “A 19 motion for a more definite statement attacks intelligibility, not simply lack of detail. For 20 this reason, the motion fails where the complaint is specific enough to apprise the 21 defendant of the substance of the claim being asserted.” Gregory Vill. Partners, L.P. v. 22 Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 805 F. Supp. 2d 888, 896 (N.D. Cal. 2011). Uber argues that Pedersen’s claims lack detail and that “[d]efendants cannot even 23 24 determine whether he has standing to sue in the first place.” Dkt. No. 30 at 13. As 25 discussed above, the Court finds Pedersen’s pleadings specific enough to establish his 26 standing. Therefore, the Court similarly denies Uber’s 12(e) motion. 27 // 28 Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 11 1 C. Uber’s ADA Liability Uber urges this Court to find that it is not a public accommodation under the ADA, 2 placing it outside the scope of regulated businesses. Dkt. No. 25 at 22-25. 3 A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal 4 sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). On a 5 motion to dismiss, all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the 6 light most favorable to the non-movant. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 3377 8 9 38 (9th Cir. 1996). The Court, however, need not accept as true “allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Secs. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). Although a complaint need 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 not allege detailed factual allegations, it must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when it “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). When deciding whether to grant a Rule 12(b)(6) 15 16 17 18 motion to dismiss, the Court generally “may not consider any material beyond the pleadings.” Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990). Therefore, the question is not whether plaintiff’s assertions are factually accurate, but rather, whether taking the complaint as true, there exists a plausible legal 19 claim. 20 If a court grants a motion to dismiss, leave to amend should be granted unless the 21 pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts. Lopez v. Smith, 203 22 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000). 23 Plaintiffs have alleged Uber is liable under the ADA under 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b), as 24 25 26 a “public accommodation,” or 42 U.S.C. § 12184, as a “specified public transportation service.” FAC ¶¶ 82, 91. Uber asserts only that it is not a “public accommodation” under the ADA, but does not ask the Court to dismiss the complaint as to the specified public 27 transportation service claim. Dkt. No. 30 at n.12. The ADA lists twelve categories of 28 Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 12 1 private establishments that are considered a “public accommodation” if they affect 2 interstate commerce. 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7). Plaintiffs allege that Uber’s operations fall 3 under the “travel service” category, so Uber qualifies as a public accommodation. 42 4 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(f). Dkt. No. 28 at 19. The ADA does not define travel services. 5 In Carparts Distrib. Ctr., Inc. v. Auto. Wholesaler’s Ass’n of New England, Inc., 37 6 F.3d 12, 13 (1st Cir. 1994), the First Circuit reviewed a district judge’s dismissal of a 7 complaint alleging that health care insurers constituted a public accommodation under the 8 ADA. There, the Court discussed the meaning of “public accommodation” and reasoned 9 that “[b]y including ‘travel service’ among the list of services considered ‘public accommodations,’ Congress clearly contemplated that ‘service establishments’ include 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 providers of services which do not require a person to physically enter an actual physical 12 structure.” Id. at 19. The First Circuit did not ultimately decide whether a health care 13 insurer was a public accommodation, but rather found the term “public accommodation” 14 vague and concluded that at the motion to dismiss stage, “it is unwise to go beyond the 15 possibility that the plaintiff may be able to develop some kind of claim under Title III.” Id. 16 at 20. Similarly here, defendants have not cited any binding law that Uber’s service is 17 precluded from regulation as a “travel service” under § 12182(b). In the absence of clear 18 law to the contrary, the Court finds that plaintiffs’ allegations, when taken as true, 19 demonstrate a plausible claim for Uber’s ADA liability under § 12182. 20 The Court denies Uber’s motion to dismiss and finds that the determination of 21 Uber’s potential liability under the public accommodation provision of the ADA requires 22 more factual development. 23 III. CONCLUSION 24 In conclusion, this Court is guided by two primary factors in denying the 25 defendants’ motion to dismiss. First, the ADA, the Unruh Act, and the DPA require the 26 court to construe standing liberally. Second, at the pleading stage, the Court must take all 27 facts pled in the complaint as true and consider whether the information provided is 28 sufficient to allege a plausible claim. The ADA, the Unruh Act, and the DPA have granted Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 13 1 private citizens a broad right to enforce their mandates, and this Court has been instructed 2 that disabled plaintiffs should not be required to engage in “futile” attempts at access. 3 Therefore, the Court finds that plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged claims for discrimination 4 under the ADA, the Unruh Act, the DPA, and for declaratory relief. 5 Uber has raised a number of concerns about the scope of the relief requested, 6 particularly in regard to NFBC and Hingson on the state law grounds, as well as the relief 7 sought on behalf of individuals allegedly bound by arbitration clauses. The Court’s 8 findings today do not preclude Uber from raising these defenses at a later stage of 9 litigation. Defendants have 14 days to answer the complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(4)(A). The 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Court also sets a case management conference for June 3, 2015, at 10:00 a.m in Courtroom 12 A, 15th Floor, U.S. District Court, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, California. 13 The parties may participate by telephone by contacting the Courtroom Deputy in advance 14 at (408) 535-5343. 15 IT IS SO ORDERED. 16 17 Dated: April 17, 2015 18 _____________________________________ NATHANAEL M. COUSINS United States Magistrate Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Case No.:14-cv-04086-NC 14