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This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 10/21/2020 at 05:51:39 (UTC).

BRIAN WHITAKER VS STARBUCKS CORPORATION, A WASHINGTON CORPORATION

Case Summary

On 05/13/2020 BRIAN WHITAKER filed a Civil Right - Other Civil Right lawsuit against STARBUCKS CORPORATION, A WASHINGTON CORPORATION. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Spring Street Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is SERENA R. MURILLO. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******4103

  • Filing Date:

    05/13/2020

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Civil Right - Other Civil Right

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Spring Street Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Judge

SERENA R. MURILLO

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

WHITAKER BRIAN

Defendant

STARBUCKS CORPORATION A WASHINGTON CORPORATION

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

HANDY RUSSELL

Defendant Attorney

CANNIZZARO CHARLES

 

Court Documents

Answer - Answer

6/12/2020: Answer - Answer

Proof of Personal Service - Proof of Personal Service

5/21/2020: Proof of Personal Service - Proof of Personal Service

Summons - Summons on Complaint

5/13/2020: Summons - Summons on Complaint

Complaint - Complaint

5/13/2020: Complaint - Complaint

Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

5/13/2020: Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

First Amended Standing Order - First Amended Standing Order

5/13/2020: First Amended Standing Order - First Amended Standing Order

Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case - Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case

5/13/2020: Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case - Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case

 

Docket Entries

  • 05/17/2023
  • Hearing05/17/2023 at 08:30 AM in Department 26 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Order to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service

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  • 11/10/2021
  • Hearing11/10/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department 26 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Non-Jury Trial

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  • 06/12/2020
  • DocketAnswer; Filed by: Starbucks Corporation, a Washington Corporation (Defendant); As to: BRIAN WHITAKER (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/21/2020
  • DocketProof of Personal Service; Filed by: BRIAN WHITAKER (Plaintiff); As to: Starbucks Corporation, a Washington Corporation (Defendant); Service Date: 05/14/2020; Service Cost Waived: No

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  • 05/13/2020
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by: BRIAN WHITAKER (Plaintiff); As to: Starbucks Corporation, a Washington Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/13/2020
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: BRIAN WHITAKER (Plaintiff); As to: Starbucks Corporation, a Washington Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/13/2020
  • DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: BRIAN WHITAKER (Plaintiff); As to: Starbucks Corporation, a Washington Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/13/2020
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 05/13/2020
  • DocketFirst Amended Standing Order; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 05/13/2020
  • DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 11/10/2021 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 26

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  • 05/13/2020
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 05/17/2023 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 26

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  • 05/13/2020
  • DocketCase assigned to Hon. Serena R. Murillo in Department 26 Spring Street Courthouse

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: 20STLC04103    Hearing Date: February 16, 2021    Dept: 26

Whitaker v. Starbucks Corp., et al.

MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

(CCP § 437c)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Plaintiff Brian Whitaker’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

ANALYSIS:

Plaintiff Brian Whitaker (“Plaintiff”) filed the instant action for violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (“the Unruh Act”) against Defendant Starbucks Corporation (“Defendant”) on May 13, 2020. Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (“the Motion”) against Defendant on November 12, 2020. Defendant filed an opposition on February 2, 2021.

Discussion

Plaintiff alleges he is a California resident with physical disabilities. (Compl., ¶1.) He further alleges that he visited Defendant’s Starbucks located at 14006 Riverside Drive #24C, Sherman Oaks, California (“the Starbucks”) in July 2019. (Id. at ¶¶3-4, 6.) On the day of his visit, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to maintain wheelchair accessible dining surfaces. (Id. at ¶9.) As a result of the lack of accessible facilities at the Starbucks, Plaintiff experienced difficulty and discomfort, and was denied full and equal access. (Id. at ¶¶13-14.)

Requests for Judicial Notice

Plaintiff’s request for judicial notice of (1) the Business Entity Details for Starbucks Corporation, found on the website of the California Secretary of State; and (2) the listing of search results for the business Starbucks Corporation located at 14006 Riverside Drive, #24C from the online Listing of Active Businesses database operated by the City of Los Angeles is granted pursuant to Cal. Evidence Code section 452.

Plaintiff’s Initial Burden of Proof

Plaintiff brings the instant motion for summary judgment based on evidence that Defendant cannot demonstrate any defense to the claim for violation of the Unruh Act. On a motion for summary adjudication of a particular cause of action or summary judgment, a moving plaintiff must show that there is no defense by proving each element of the cause of action entitling the party to judgment on that cause of action. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(1).) Then the burden shifts to the defendant to show that a triable issue of one or more material facts exists as to that cause of action or a defense. (Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (p)(1).) Additionally, in ruling on the Motion, the Court must view the “evidence [citations] and such inferences [citations], in the light most favorable to the opposing party.” (Intrieri v. Superior Court (2004) 117 Cal.App.4th 72, 81 [citing Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 843].)

A violation of the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a violation of section 51, subdivision (f) of California’s Unruh Act. (Cal. Civ. Code, § 51, subd. (f).) Statutory penalties are available for construction-related accessibility violations of the Unruh Act if a patron is denied full and equal access to the place of public accommodation on a particular occasion. (Cal. Civ. Code, § 55.56, subd. (a).) A denial of full and equal access to the place of public accommodation occurs when a patron experiences difficulty, discomfort, or embarrassment due to the violation. (Cal. Civ. Code, § 55.56, subd. (c).) Failure to remove a physical element of the property that does not meet the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (“ADAAG”) amounts to discrimination under the ADA. (42 U.S.C., § 12182, subd. (b)(2)(A)(iv).)

Accordingly, the elements of a claim for violation of the Unruh Act are that: (1) Plaintiff is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) Defendant owned, leased, or operated a place of public accommodation; (3) the place of public accommodation was in violation of one or more construction-related accessibility standards; (4) the violations denied Plaintiff full and equal access to the place of public accommodation; (5) the violations were personally encountered by Plaintiff on a particular occasion; (6) Plaintiff experienced difficulty, discomfort or embarrassment due to the violations; and (7) the discrimination was intentional unless premised exclusively upon a violation of the ADA. (Cal. Civ. Code § 55.56; Mundy v. Pro-Thro Enterprises (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1; Surrey v. TrueBeginnings (2009) 168 Cal.App.4th 414.)

In support of the Motion, Plaintiff presents the following evidence. On July 13, 2019, Plaintiff went to the Starbucks to buy coffee. (Motion, Separate Statement, Fact Nos. 2, 4; Whitaker Decl., ¶3; Louis Decl., ¶2.) On the date of his visit, Plaintiff observed that the tables right outside of the Starbucks were pedestal style and did not have sufficient toe clearance for people in wheelchairs, like himself. (Motion, Separate Statement, Fact Nos. 1, 5, 6; Whitaker Decl., ¶¶2, 4-5.) Had Plaintiff tried to use one of the tables, he knew the pedestal would get in the way of his wheelchair. (Motion, Separate Statement, Fact No. 7; Whitaker Decl., ¶6.) This was frustrating for Plaintiff because he had to find another place to get coffee. (Motion, Separate Statement, Fact No. 7; Whitaker Decl., ¶6.) On July 26, 2019, Plaintiff’s investigator, Evens Louis, visited the Starbucks and measured the toe clearance of the tables as only one inch. (Motion, Separate Statement, Fact Nos. 8-9; Louis Decl., ¶3 and Exh. 4.)

Plaintiff’s evidence demonstrates the table violate ADA standards. Dining surfaces are required to provide toe clearance at least 17 inches deep and 30 inches wide. (36 CFR, Pt. 1191, Appx. D, § 306.) The evidence further demonstrates that Plaintiff encountered this accessibility violation and suffered discomfort and difficulty as a result. However, Plaintiff does not address ownership of the tables, which were outside of the Starbucks. Plaintiff’s own evidence is that the Starbucks is located in a particular unit at 14006 Riverside Drive, specifically unit 24C, but the tables were outside the Starbucks. (Motion, RJN, Exh. 8; Whitaker Decl., Exh. 2; Louis Decl., Exh. 4.) Therefore, the Motion has not demonstrated that the accessibility violations were on property owned, leased, or operated by Defendant, as required to prove an action for violation of the Unruh Act.

Plaintiff has not carried his initial burden of proof on the Motion for Summary Judgment. In opposition, Defendant also disputes that it owns the tables outside the Starbucks Plaintiff visited on July 13, 2019. (Opp., p. 2:7-13.) While the opposition attaches no evidence regarding ownership of the tables, it is not required to do so until Plaintiff has met the moving burden of proof. As discussed above, Plaintiff has failed to do so.

Conclusion

Plaintiff Brian Whitaker’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

Defendant to give notice.

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