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Cerda v. Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 30, 2019

DAVID FELIMON CERDA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO CUBS BASEBALL CLUB, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HON. JORGE ALONSO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff David Felimon Cerda has filed a two-count third amended complaint against defendant Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, LLC, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RHA”), 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. Before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's third amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for a stay of the proceedings. For the reasons set forth below, the motion [40] is granted in part and denied in part. Status set for September 12, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff David Felimon Cerda has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Defendant Chicago Cubs Baseball Club, LLC (the “Cubs”) is a professional baseball team located on the north side of Chicago, Illinois. The team plays its home games at Wrigley Field. Cerda is a lifelong Cubs fan and attends multiple Cubs games each season at Wrigley Field.

         In 2014, the Cubs began extensive renovations to Wrigley Field.[1] Cerda alleges that, prior to the renovations, he would watch games from a wheelchair seating area in the right field bleachers (top of Sections 317 and 318), a field box behind home plate (near Sections 118, 123, and 19-22), and an upper deck box beneath the press box. Cerda generally alleges that, as a result of the renovations, he can no longer sit in his preferred seats, his view of the field of play and his experience is worse than it was before the renovations, and the seating options available to wheelchair patrons is subpar. Cerda complains about certain Accessible Seating areas.[2] He also challenges the number of Accessible Seats in Wrigley Field, the Seating Map, and the availability of post-season playoff tickets. In particular, he complains about Accessible Seating in the following locations:

Location

Section(s)

Complaint(s)

Right Field Bleachers

316, 317, and 318

No ADA single general admission wheelchair seats sold in the top of these Sections

Left Field Bleachers

305

No ADA compliant wheelchair seats during 2016 and 2017 Seasons

Reserved for group sales

Center Field Bleachers

307-309

Seats located behind a dark pane of glass

307, 309, 310, and 337-341

No wheelchair access

Lower Field Box (behind home plate)

118, 129, and 19-22

Moved Accessible Seating back several rows and down the first base line instead of centered behind home plate

Club Box

American Airlines 2014 Club

No ADA seats available

Under grandstand along third base line

General

Obstructed by grandstand

         Right Field Bleachers: Cerda contends that he can no longer sit in the top of Sections 317-318 because the bleachers now contain mostly “group seating” options which must be booked with at least 50 guests. He complains that he cannot purchase seats on an individual basis and that these tickets are much more expensive than regular general admission tickets.

         Left Field Bleachers: Cerda says that, in 2016 and 2017, wheelchair seating was not available to individuals who purchased a single (non-group) general admission ADA ticket.

         Center Field Bleachers: Cerda alleges that, while the center field bleachers have an accessible seating area, the area is not truly accessible because the games must be viewed from behind a “dark pane of glass.” (Dkt. 35, ¶ 45.) Cerda further contends that Sections 307, 309, 310, and 337-341 are not available to wheelchair patrons.

         Lower Field Box: Cerda alleges that the Cubs moved the row of lower field box wheelchair seats behind home plate farther back from the field of play and down the first base line (instead of being centered behind home plate).

         American Airlines 2014 Club: Cerda says that he would “like to enjoy wheelchair seating in the front row of the lower box seats at Wrigley Field, in a seating area now designated the American Airlines 2014 Club.” (Id., ¶ 31.) He says that the Cubs were not selling any ADA seats in this area for the 2018 Season.

         Under the Grandstand: Cerda alleges that, while the Cubs say that Wrigley Field has ADA wheelchair seating under the grandstand along the third base line, the seating area does not actually comply with ADA requirements because the view is obstructed by the grandstand and is inferior to the view enjoyed by most other patrons.

         In his third amended complaint, Cerda alleges violations under the ADA and RHA. Count I is brought under the ADA. Cerda alleges that, because the Cubs renovated Wrigley Field, the Cubs are required to comply with Title III of the ADA as well as the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (the “2010 Standards”). He says that wheelchair seating should be integral at Wrigley Field and should be substantially equal to or better than seating choices for other patrons. Cerda contends that the Cubs have violated their duty under the ADA and are refusing to make reasonable accommodations to comply with the ADA. Cerda requests the Court to order the Cubs to: (1) create a minimum of three ADA seats in the American Airlines Club, including seats near each of the dugouts and behind home plate; (2) restore ADA single general admission tickets for bleacher seats at regular prices; (3) restore wheelchair seating in the lower boxes behind home plate to the same or better condition as before the 2016 renovation to that area; (4) make seating in Section 305 available for single ticket sales at regular prices; (5) create ADA compliant seats in the center field bleachers; (6) create wheelchair seating in the lower field boxes down the first and third base lines; (7) obtain the total number of ADA seats required by the Act; (8) meet the vertical and horizontal dispersion requirements under the ADA; (9) create a Seating Map that identifies ADA seating; (10) change the post-season ticketing policy; and (11) pay reasonable attorney's fees, costs and expenses. Count II is brought under the RHA. Cerda alleges that, because the Cubs received federal financial assistance for the Wrigley Field renovations, the Cubs cannot intentionally discriminate against handicapped persons.

         The Cubs move to dismiss or, in the alternative, stay the proceedings until the renovations are complete. The Cubs bring a factual challenge to Cerda's ADA claim, contending that Cerda lacks standing to bring his ADA claim because he does not face an imminent “injury in fact.” The Cubs further say that they did not receive federal financial assistance for the reconstruction of the bleacher seats, and, therefore, Cerda's RHA claim fails.

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Americans with Disabilities Act

         “Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation.” Scherr v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 703 F.3d 1069, 1076 (7th Cir. 2013). The ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., was created to provide a “clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities, ” to provide enforceable standards addressing discrimination, and to ensure that the Federal Government plays a central role in enforcing such standards. 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b). To bring a claim under the ADA, an individual must have a “physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102. Under the ADA, “a plaintiff must (1) allege past injury under the ADA; (2) show that it is reasonable to infer from [his] complaint that this discriminatory treatment will continue; and (3) show that it is also reasonable to infer, based on the past frequency of [his] visits and the proximity of [the public accommodation] to [his] home, that [he] intends to return to [the public accommodation] in the future.” Scherr, 703 F.3d at 1074 (internal quotations omitted).

         The Cubs move to dismiss Cerda's ADA claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), arguing that Cerda lacks standing to seek injunctive relief because he cannot prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he faces an imminent “injury in fact.”

         A. Legal Standard

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a district court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws reasonable inferences from the allegations in favor of the plaintiff. Citadel Sec., LLC v. Chi. Bd. Options Exch., Inc., 808 F.3d 694, 698 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Capitol Leasing Co. v. FDIC, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993)). The court may also look beyond the allegations of the complaint and consider affidavits and other documentary evidence to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. Capitol Leasing, 999 F.2d at 191.

         The jurisdiction of federal courts is limited to “cases” and “controversies” as described in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. “There is no case or controversy if the plaintiff lacks standing to challenge the defendant's alleged misconduct.” Diedrich v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 839 F.3d 583, 587 (7th Cir. 2016). To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must establish “(1) injury in fact, which must be concrete and particularized, and actual and imminent; (2) a causal connection between the injury and the defendant's conduct; and (3) redressability.” Scherr, 703 F.3d at 1074 (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). “To establish an ‘injury-in-fact' for purposes of Title III of the ADA, which authorizes only prospective injunctive relief, a plaintiff must allege that a ‘real and immediate' threat of future violations exist.” Faircloth v. McDonald's Corp. & McDonald's USA LLC, No. 18 C 1831, 2018 WL 5921230, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 13, 2018) (citing Scherr, 703 F.3d at 1074-75). The plaintiff has the burden of establishing these elements. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561. “If standing is ...


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