United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge
operates a website that allows users to buy tickets and book
reservations for various sporting and entertainment events,
as well as for hotel stays. R. 1, Compl. at ¶
In July 2015, Andrew Huzar, who suffers from spina bifida,
attempted to reserve a wheelchair-accessible hotel room on
Groupon's website but found that none were available.
Id. ¶¶ 4, 19. After unsuccessfully
contacting Groupon to try resolving the problem, Huzar
brought suit against Groupon for violating the
public-accommodation sections of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA). Id. ¶ 44. Groupon moves
to dismiss the claim on the ground that it itself is not a
place of public accommodation under the ADA, nor does it
operate one. R. 23, Def. Mot. to Dismiss; see R. 24,
Def. Br. at 2. For the following reasons, the motion is
purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true the
allegations in the Complaint. Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In July 2015, Huzar visited the
Groupon website and tried to reserve a room in the Red Lion
Hotel through a “Groupon Getaway” deal. Compl.
¶¶ 19-20. When Huzar navigated through the website,
he noticed that there were no options for handicap-accessible
rooms. Id. Huzar has spina bifida and uses a
wheelchair to get around, so without an accessible room, he
could not stay at the Red Lion using the deal that Groupon
had advertised. See Id. ¶ 4. So Huzar emailed
Groupon and asked, “Is there any way to book a
wheelchair accessible room with this offer?”
Id. ¶ 21. Groupon responded that it was sorry,
but that “unfortunately handicap-accessible rooms are
not available.” Id. ¶ 22. Since then,
Huzar has been deterred from trying to reserve hotel rooms
through Groupon's website. Id. ¶ 23.
year later, in July 2016, Huzar received an email, which
advertised a “Groupon Deal” for New York Jets
tickets at the MetLife Stadium. Compl. ¶ 25. He visited
the website to buy tickets to one of the available Jets
games, but discovered a complete lack of
accessible-designated tickets. Id. ¶¶
27-28. He looked around the website but could not
find any way for disabled customers to purchase accessible
seating. Id. ¶ 29. Even though Huzar knows that
MetLife Stadium has accessible seating, Groupon's website
did not have any method to view the availability of
designated accessible seats. Id. ¶¶ 30-31.
So even though accessible seats exist, Huzar could not get
the tickets for those seats through Groupon's platform.
Id. ¶ 32.
Huzar still occasionally wants to buy tickets or reserve
hotel rooms through Groupon, he does not because Groupon
fails to offer accessible options for people with
disabilities. See Compl. ¶ 24. By failing to
offer accessible ticketing and reservation options, Huzar
claims, Groupon is violating the ADA by excluding him from
the services, programs, and accommodations it offers to the
public. Id. ¶¶ 34, 44. And as the provider
of ticketing and reservation services to places of public
accommodation, Huzar alleges that Groupon serves as a
“nexus” for individuals to access those places.
Id. ¶ 37. At present, Groupon has supposedly
not modified its site or practices to accommodate patrons
that need accessible options. Id. ¶ 45. Huzar
wishes to represent a class of other disabled persons denied
access to accessible ticketing options through Groupon's
website. See Id. ¶¶ 45-46.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint
generally need only include “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain
statement must “give the defendant fair notice of what
the … claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (cleaned up). The Seventh Circuit has explained
that this rule “reflects a liberal notice pleading
regime, which is intended to ‘focus litigation on the
merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities that
might keep plaintiffs out of court.” Brooks v.
Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514
motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of
Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009).
“[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
The allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth
are those that are factual, rather than mere legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
“Operates” a Public Accommodation
enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act “to provide
a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the
elimination of discrimination against individuals with
disabilities.” 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1). Generally
speaking, the ADA forbids disability discrimination in
employment, in state and local government services, and in
public accommodations. Public-accommodations discrimination
is the issue in this case. Specifically, Title III of the ADA
provides that “[n]o individual shall be discriminated
against on the basis of disability in the full and equal
enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, advantage, or
accommodations of any place of public accommodation …
.” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); Wigginton v. Bank of
America Corp., 770 F.3d 521, 523 (7th Cir. 2014). This
non-discrimination provision applies to “any person who
owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public
accommodation.” § 12182(a).
and stadiums-like the Red Lion hotel and MetLife Stadium-both
are places of public accommodation under the ADA. The
ADA's definitional provision specifically deems hotels
and stadiums to be places of public accommodation. 42 U.S.C.
§ 12181(7)(A), (D). But of course, the question in this
case is whether Groupon-not just the hotel and the
stadium-is governed by Title III of the ADA. Remember that
Title III applies to not just owners or lessors of public
accommodations, but also to anyone who “operates”
a public accommodation. § 12182(a). In his response
brief, Huzar argues that Groupon “operates” a
place of public accommodation. To Huzar's way of thinking,
“there can be multiple operators of the New
York Jets or a vacation getaway.” Pl. Resp. at 10
(emphasis added). Groupon, Huzar says, is one of the
operators of the stadium where the Jets play and of the Red
Lion Hotel. Id.
theory of liability cannot be squared with the plain meaning
of the ADA. The problem is not that, as a matter of
law, there cannot be more than one operator of a public
accommodation. The problem is that, on the complaint's
allegations, Groupon does not “operate” MetLife
stadium or the Red Lion Hotel within the meaning of the ADA.
The ADA does not set forth an explicit definition of
“operates.” See 42 U.S.C. § 12181.
When a statute does not provide an express definition of a
word, federal courts must look to the word's plain
meaning. See Smith v. United States, 508 U.S. 223,
228 (1993). Dictionaries provide useful guidance in
discerning a word's plain meaning. Id. (citing
to dictionaries to ...