E-Alert Case Updates
Another Dismissal for Failing to Follow the Iqbal-Twombly Pleading Standard
National Alliance for Accessibility, Inc. v. Annapolis Plaza, LLC.
Plaintiffs National Alliance for Accessibility, Incorporated, and Denise Payne (“Plaintiffs”) sued Annapolis Plaza, LLC (“Annapolis Plaza”) alleging that Annapolis Plaza was not in compliance with accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) for public accommodations, 42 U.S.C. § 12181, et seq., as specified in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (“ADAAG”), codified in 36 C.F.R. § 1191. Annapolis Plaza filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, a motion for more definite statement pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(e).
Under the Iqbal-Twombly pleading standard, a complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim torelief that is plausible on its face.’” Facial plausibility exists “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” An inference of a mere possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to support a plausible claim. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’ . . . Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Although when considering a motion to dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, that principle does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.
The court held that the Plaintiffs’ complaint failed to satisfy the Iqbal-Twombly pleading standard. The complaint was filled with Plaintiffs’ conclusions that Defendant’s facilities were inaccessible, but provided no specific factual allegations that would allow the court to infer that the Plaintiff, Denise Payne, had been discriminated against on the basis of disability and was likely to be discriminated against in the future. For example, Plaintiffs alleged that Ms. Payne had “encountered architectural barriers at the subject property. The barriers to access at the property have endangered her safety.” The court ruled that these were clearly her conclusions couched as factual allegations, and even noted that the National Alliance for Accessibility, Incorporated has filed similar complaints in the court with the same “boilerplate” allegations.
Under 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a), injunctive relief may be granted to “any person who is being subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability . . . or who has reasonable grounds for believing that such person is about to be subjected to discrimination . . . .” But all that Plaintiffs offered in their complaint was a list of their conclusions that certain aspects of the property did not meet the ADAAG guidelines. Notably, they failed to state specific facts to support their conclusions, and they failed to plead sufficient facts to allow the court to infer that any deficiencies in facilities resulted in discrimination against Ms. Payne or will do so in the future. Thus, the court concluded that the causation requirement of 42 U.S.C. § 12188(a) was not satisfied by the allegations of the complaint.
The court concluded that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Therefore, Defendant’s motion was granted under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), and denied as moot under 12(b)(1) and (e).
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