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Mitchell v. DayMet Credit Union

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

August 2, 2019

Walter Mitchell, Plaintiff,
v.
DayMet Credit Union, Defendant.

          ENTRY AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT DAYMET CREDIT UNION'S MOTION TO DISMISS, ECF 3.

          THOMAS M. ROSE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Motion of DayMet Credit Union (“DayMet”) to dismiss Plaintiff Walter Mitchell's (“Mitchell”) claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (6). ECF No. 3. Mitchell filed the complaint on March 2, 2018. ECF No. 1. DayMet filed the present motion and memorandum in support of the motion on June 4, 2018. ECF Nos. 3, 4. Mitchell filed his response to the motion on June 25, 2018. ECF No. 6. DayMet filed its reply to the response motion on July 5, 2018. ECF No. 8. DayMet has filed three notices of supplemental authority in the action, to which Mitchell has responded twice. ECF Nos. 11-12, 14, 16-17. Mitchell has also filed two notices of supplemental authority. ECF Nos. 9, 10. Because Mitchell's complaint requests injunctive relief but alleges no future harm, DayMet's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing is hereby granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Walter Mitchell is a blind resident of Ohio. ECF No. 1 ¶ 5. Mitchell uses screen reading technology to access websites. He alleges that he attempted to access Defendant DayMet's website, but he was unable to navigate the website because it was incompatible with screen reading technology. ECF No. 1 ¶ 14-17. Mitchell has sued DayMet under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that DayMet is denying blind and visually impaired individuals equal access to DayMet's website. ECF No. 1 at Count I.

         DayMet is a Credit Union that limits its membership to those who “live, work, attend school, or worship in Montgomery, Miami, Greene, or Clark Counties in Ohio.” ECF No. 4 at 5. Mitchell is not a member of DayMet, and DayMet alleges that he cannot become a member of DayMet. Id. Mitchell, however, alleges that he is eligible for membership in DayMet because he publishes a newsletter, the National Foundation for the Blind Newsletter, in three of those counties, and interacts with and visits subscribers of the newsletter in those counties, such that he works in those counties. ECF No. 1 ¶ 4.

         Mitchell alleges that he visited DayMet's website several times. Id. ¶ 17. He alleges DayMet's website deficiencies as follows: “(1) Linked image missing alternative text . . . result[ing] in an empty link . . .; (2) [e]mpty or missing form labels . . .; and (3) [r]edundant [l]inks where adjacent links go to the same URL address . . . .” Id. ¶ 15. Mitchell alleges that these deficiencies “denied [him] full and equal access, and deterred [him] on a regular basis from accessing [DayMet]'s website.” Id. ¶ 17. Mitchell also alleges he was deterred from visiting DayMet's physical locations because of the deficiencies on DayMet's website. Id. ¶ 17. Mitchell has requested injunctive relief requiring DayMet to make its website equally accessible for blind and visually impaired individuals, for attorney fees and expenses, litigation costs, and for any other relief this Court might find appropriate. Id. at Relief Requested, PageID 11.

         DayMet has moved to dismiss Mitchell's suit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. The standard of review will be applied below, followed by an analysis of the arguments.

         II. Standard of Review

          Before the Court may determine whether a plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must first resolve whether it may exercise jurisdiction over the subject matter. City of Heath, Ohio v. Ashland Oil, Inc., 834 F.Supp. 971, 975 (S.D. Ohio 1993). “Federal courts may exercise jurisdiction only where an actual ‘case or controversy' exists.” Parsons v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 801 F.3d 701, 709-10 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing U.S. Const. art. III, § 2). The case or controversy requirement has been interpreted as requiring “a litigant have standing to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts.” Parsons, 801 F.3d at 710 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). In other words, this Court must first determine the 12(b)(1) motion before it may determine the 12(b)(6) motion before it.

         A. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction Standard of Review

          When subject-matter jurisdiction is challenged, the party claiming the jurisdiction bears the burden of proving it. Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). Rule 12(b)(1) provides that the defendant may file a motion to dismiss based on a “lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter.” The standard of review of a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction depends on whether the defendant makes a facial or factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction. Wayside Church v. Van Buren County, 847 F.3d 812, 816-17 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Carrier Corp. v. Outokumpu Oyj, 673 F.3d 430, 440 (6th Cir. 2012). A facial attack- which DayMet uses here-"questions merely the sufficiency of the pleading.” Id. (citing Gentek Bldg Prods., Inc. v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 491 F.3d 320, 330 (6th Cir. 2007)). This requires the Court to “take[] the allegations in the complaint as true.” Id. A factual attack of the subject-matter jurisdiction, however, would raise a factual controversy, and would require the district court to weigh evidence to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction does in fact exist. Id. Because the attack DayMet makes in this case is facial, the Court will only review the complaint to determine the sufficiency of jurisdiction.

         B. Failure to state a claim motion standard.

         “The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is to allow a defendant to test whether, as a matter of law, the plaintiff is entitled to legal relief even if everything alleged in the complaint is true.” Bihn v. Fifth Third Mortg. Co., 980 F.Supp.2d 892, 897 (S.D. Ohio 2013) (citing Mayer v. Mylod, 988 F.2d 635, 638 (6th Cir. 1993)). Moreover, the purpose of the motion is to test the formal sufficiency of the statement of the claim for relief. Id. “[F]or the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the complaint must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and its allegations taken as true.” Id. (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232 (1974)).

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must provide more than labels and conclusions; a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action is not enough. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Further, the factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level and must also do something more than merely create a suspicion of a legally cognizable right. Id. However, the Court is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as factual allegation or unwarranted factual inferences. Id. at 555; Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987); See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). ...


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