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Bahl v. County of Ramsey et al.: US District Court : 1983 - no standing for injunctive, declaratory. relief; leave to amend regarding association discrimination claims

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Douglas Duane Bahl and Civil No. 08-5001(DSD/JJG)
Susan Kovacs-Bahl,
Plaintiffs,
v. ORDER
County of Ramsey, Ramsey
County Sheriffs Department
and City of St. Paul,
Defendants.
-----------------------------------
Dawn Moder and Michael Moder, Civil No. 08-5242(DSD/JJG)
Plaintiffs,
v.
County of Ramsey, Ramsey
County Sheriffs Department
and City of St. Paul,
Defendants.
-----------------------------------
Jerome Owens, Civil No. 08-5243(DSD/JJG)
Plaintiff,
v.
County of Ramsey, Ramsey
County Sheriffs Department
and City of St. Paul,
Defendants.
Roderick J. Macpherson III, Esq., Emily Teplin, Esq. and
Minnesota Disability Law Center, 430 1st Avenue North,
Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55401, counsel for plaintiffs.
1 The court consolidated the three cases for purposes of these
motions because they involve common questions of law and fact. The
County filed a motion in all three actions. The City did not file
a motion in civil case number 08-5001.
2
Thomas E. Ring, Ramsey County Attorney, 50 Kellogg
Boulevard West, Suite 560, St. Paul, MN 55102 and James
F. X. Jerskey, Judith A. Hanson, St. Paul City Attorney,
15 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 750, St. Paul, MN 55102,
counsel for defendants.
This matter is before the court on the motions of defendants
City of St. Paul (City), Ramsey County and the Ramsey County
Sheriffs Department (County) for partial dismissal of
plaintiffs claims.1 After a review of the file, record and
proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, defendants
motions are granted in part.
BACKGROUND
These disability discrimination actions arise out of similar
allegations. City police officers arrested deaf individuals -
Douglas Bahl (Bahl), Dawn Moder (Ms. Moder) and Jerome Owens
(Owens) - without providing an American Sign Language (ASL)
interpreter. The County then detained these individuals at the
adult detention center (ADC) without access to an ASL interpreter
or auxiliary aids that would have permitted them to communicate
with others outside of the ADC. These individuals assert claims
under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), section 504 of
2 Owens does not assert a MHRA claim against the City.
3 The complaint alleges that Kovacs and Bahl are married.
Uncontested materials submitted by the County, however, indicate
that at the time of the incident they were not married. (Ring Aff.
Ex. 2.) The court considers the Countys exhibit without
converting defendants motions into motions for summary judgment.
See Missouri ex rel. Nixon v. Coeur DAlene Tribe, 164 F.3d 1102,
1107 (8th Cir. 1999) (court may consider certain materials outside
of pleadings without converting motion to dismiss into motion for
summary judgment).
4 The County inappropriately raised the latter issue for the
first time in its reply memorandum. See Jenkins v. Winter, 540
F.3d 742, 751 (8th Cir. 2008) (Claims not raised in an opening
brief are deemed waived.). The court, however, considers the
Countys arguments because the issues are purely legal and have
been fully developed under the parties subject matter jurisdiction
arguments. See Newton v. Clinical Reference Lab., Inc., 517 F.3d
554, 557 (8th Cir. 2008) (court may consider arguments raised for
first time in reply if issue is purely legal). In addition, the
court considers plaintiffs supplemental memorandum.
3
the Federal Rehabilitation Act (section 504") and the Minnesota
Human Rights Act (MHRA), and for negligence.2 In addition, Susan
Kovacs-Bahl (Kovacs), Bahls girlfriend at the time of the
incident,3 and Michael Moder (Mr. Moder), Ms. Moders husband,
both of whom are deaf, assert claims against the County under the
ADA, section 504 and the MHRA. All plaintiffs seek damages as well
as declaratory and injunctive relief. Defendants move to dismiss
plaintiffs requests for prospective relief for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction, arguing that plaintiffs do not have standing.
The County also moves to dismiss all claims asserted by Kovacs and
Mr. Moder for lack of standing, or alternatively, for failure to
state a claim.4
4
DISCUSSION
I. Standing
Federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over actions
brought by litigants without standing. Jewell v. United States,
548 F.3d 1168, 1172 (8th Cir. 2008). Standing is derived from
article III of the United States Constitution and prudential
considerations. Id. The irreducible constitutional minimum of
standing requires the plaintiff to have suffered an injury in
fact that is traceable to the defendants challenged action and
that can likely be redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan v.
Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). An injury-in-fact
is an invasion of a legally protected interest which is
(a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not
conjectural or hypothetical. Id. (quotations omitted); see also
Jones v. Gale, 470 F.3d 1261, 1265 (8th Cir. 2005). The plaintiff
bears the burden of establishing standing. See Pucket v. Hot
Springs Sch. Dist. No. 23-2, 526 F.3d 1151, 1157 (8th Cir. 2008).
A. Prospective Relief
The parties agree that all plaintiffs lack standing to pursue
injunctive and declaratory relief because they cannot show a
likelihood of future injury. See Meuir v. Greene County Jail
Employees, 487 F.3d 1115, 1119 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing City of Los
Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 111 (1983)). Nevertheless,
defendants ask the court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
5
the claims for prospective relief and deny them with prejudice
according to state law. Without jurisdiction to order the
requested relief, however, the court has no authority to determine
whether such relief would be appropriate under state law. See In
re Nifedipine Antitrust Litig., 335 F. Supp. 2d 6, 19 (D.D.C. 2004)
(no supplemental jurisdiction if dismissal based on lack of
jurisdiction); Hernandez v. County of Dupage, Civ. No. 96-8030,
1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18877, at *16 n.9 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 19, 1998)
([A] party with a valid claim for damages against a defendant
would, under the Countys theory, be able to maintain an action for
injunctive relief against that defendant - a result squarely in
contradiction with the Supreme Courts decision in Lyons, 461 U.S.
at 105-06.). Accordingly, the court dismisses without prejudice
plaintiffs requests for declaratory and injunctive relief.
B. Non-Detained Plaintiffs
Kovacs and Mr. Moder seek compensatory damages for the alleged
fear, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment they sustained because
of the Countys failure to permit Bahl and Ms. Moder to contact
them. The County does not challenge these allegations, but argues
that Kovacs and Mr. Moder have not alleged an injury-in-fact
because they have not established a prima facie case under the ADA,
section 504 or the MHRA. It is, however, a fundamental principle
that the ultimate merits of the case have no bearing on the
threshold question of standing, Campbell v. Minneapolis Pub. Hous.
5 The County does not expressly argue that prudential standing
limitations preclude Kovacs and Mr. Moder from maintaining their
claims. See Oti Kaga, Inc. v. S.D. Hous. Dev. Auth., 342 F.3d 871,
880 (8th Cir. 2003) (A plaintiff may also run afoul of prudential
standing limits because the claim rests on the legal rights of
third-parties, or the interest, though real, may not fall within
the zone of interests protected by the statutory provision
invoked.(citations omitted)). The court, however, is satisfied
that Kovacs and Mr. Moder have standing because they assert direct
discrimination claims based upon their own disabilities and
association discrimination claims based upon their relationships
with Bahl and Ms. Moder. They are thus asserting their own rights,
not those of third parties. Moreover, Kovacs and Mr. Moder are
within the zone of interests protected by the ADA, section 504 and
the MHRA because they are deaf, have a relationship with other deaf
individuals and allege injuries distinct from those suffered by
Bahl and Ms. Moder. See infra Part II. Therefore, Kovacs and Mr.
Moder satisfy prudential standing requirements.
6
Auth., 168 F.3d 1069, 1074 (8th Cir. 1999), and the court
determines that Bahl and Mr. Moders allegations of injury satisfy
the constitutional requirements of standing at this stage of the
proceedings.5 See Medalie v. Bayer Corp., 510 F.3d 828, 829-30
(8th Cir. 2007) (standing must be established with the manner and
degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the
litigation) (quotation omitted)).
II. Failure to State A Claim
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a
complaint must contain a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. This statement
does not require detailed factual allegations so long as it
give[s] the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47
6 Section 504 contains similar prohibitions with the
additional requirement that the allegedly discriminatory program
or activity [be] receiving Federal financial assistance. 29
U.S.C. 794(a). Likewise, the MHRA forbids discrimination in the
access to, admission to, full utilization of or benefit from any
public service because of ... disability. Minn. Stat. 363A.12,
subdiv. 1. The court refers only to the ADA, but its analysis
applies equally to section 504 and the MHRA. See Yeng Thao v. City
of St. Paul, 481 F.3d 565, 567 n.3 (8th Cir. 2007).
7
(1957). However, a court will dismiss a complaint pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failing to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted if, after taking all facts
alleged in the complaint as true, those facts fail to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007).
A. Direct Discrimination
Kovacs and Mr. Moder claim that they were denied access to and
the benefits of the Countys service of allowing non-detained
individuals to be called by detained individuals because of their
hearing impairments and the Countys failure to provide Bahl and
Ms. Moder with auxiliary aids.
Title II of the ADA forbids a public entity from excluding
qualified individuals with disabilities from participating in or
receiving the benefits of its services, programs or activities. 42
U.S.C. 12132.6 To state a prima facie case under the ADA, a
plaintiff must allege that he or she (1) is a qualified individual
with a disability, (2) was excluded from participating in or
receiving the benefits of the service, program or activity, and
8
(3) such exclusion was because of his or her disability. See
Randolph v. Rodgers, 170 F.3d 850, 858 (8th Cir. 1999). An
individual with a disability is qualified if he or she meets the
essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or
the participation in programs or activities provided by a public
entity. 42 U.S.C. 12131(2).
The County does not contest that it provides a service to nondetained
individuals by enabling them to be contacted by detained
individuals. See Niece v. Fitzner, 922 F. Supp. 1208, 1217 (E.D.
Mich. 1995) (service provided to non-detained individuals when
detention facility permits them to be called by detained
individuals); see also Johnson v. City of Saline, 151 F.3d 564, 569
(6th Cir. 1998) ([T]he phrase services, programs, or activities
encompasses virtually everything that a public entity does.). The
County also does not suggest that Kovacs and Mr. Moder have not
adequately alleged that they were excluded from the telephone
service because of their hearing impairments. Rather, the County
seems to argue that Kovacs and Mr. Moder have not alleged their
eligibility for the telephone service because their complaints do
not indicate that Bahl or Ms. Moder attempted to contact them. The
complaints, however, expressly state that Bahl and Ms. Moder
requested auxiliary aids to communicate with people outside of the
ADC, and that the Countys failure to provide such aids precluded
their communication with Kovacs and Mr. Moder. (See Bahl Compl.
7 The court does not consider the affidavits submitted by Bahl
and Mr. Moder to establish that the County was aware of their
relationships with Kovacs and Ms. Moder. (Bahl Aff. 15; Mr.
Moder Aff. 5.) As a result, the court does not convert the
motions to dismiss into motions for summary judgment. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(d).
9
1, 4, 25; Moder Compl. 1, 4, 23.) These allegations satisfy
Rule 8's liberal pleading standard. Therefore, the Countys motion
to dismiss this claim as to Kovacs and Mr. Moder is denied.
B. Association Discrimination
Kovacs and Mr. Moder further contend that they were denied the
telephone service because of their association with Bahl and Ms.
Moder. Title II of the ADA protects individuals who are
discriminated against because of their relationship or association
with individuals who have a known disability. Doe v. County of
Centre, 242 F.3d 437, 447 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing 28 C.F.R.
35.130(g)); see also MX Group, Inc. v. City of Covington, 293 F.3d.
326, 332-35 (6th Cir. 2002) (association discrimination claims
available under section 504). Such a relationship or association
must be known by the public entity that engaged in the alleged
discrimination. See Schneider v. County of Will, 190 F. Supp. 2d
1082, 1089 (N.D. Ill. 2002).
Here, Kovacs and Mr. Moder have not alleged facts suggesting
that the County knew of them or their association with Bahl and Ms.
Moder.7 Absent such allegations, a claim for association
discrimination is wholly speculative. Therefore, the court
10
dismisses Kovacs and Mr. Moders claims for association
discrimination. Plaintiffs, however, are permitted leave to amend
their complaints to correct this omission on or before March 12,
2009.
CONCLUSION
Based on the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. In civil case number 08-5001:
a. The Countys motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 23] is
granted in part;
b. Plaintiffs request for declaratory and injunctive
relief is dismissed without prejudice;
c. Kovacss claim for association discrimination is
dismissed without prejudice; and
d. Plaintiffs motion for leave to file a supplemental
brief [Doc. No. 40] is granted.
2. In civil case number 08-5242:
a. The Countys motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 8] is
granted in part;
b. The Citys motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 12] is
granted;
c. Plaintiffs request for declaratory and injunctive
relief is dismissed without prejudice;
d. Mr. Moders claim for association discrimination is
11
dismissed without prejudice; and
e. Plaintiffs motion for leave to file a supplemental
brief [Doc. No. 31] is granted.
3. In civil case number 08-5243:
a. The Countys motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 7] is
granted;
b. The Citys motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 11] is
granted; and
c. Plaintiffs request for declaratory and injunctive
relief is dismissed without prejudice.
Dated: February 11, 2009
s/David S. Doty
David S. Doty, Judge
United States District Court
 

 
 
 

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