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Longhini v. West Palm Plaza, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

November 27, 2017

Douglas Longhini, Plaintiff,
West Palm Plaza, Inc., and Manhattan Big Apple, Inc. d/b/a Manhattan Pizza Place, Defendants.


          Robert N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge.

         The Plaintiff brings this action under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189 (the “ADA”), alleging that he encountered architectural barriers at the Defendants' shopping center and restaurant that prevented him from full and equal enjoyment of the premises. The Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, as well as attorneys' fees and costs.

         Plaintiff Douglas Longhini alleges that he has a physical impairment that requires him to use a wheelchair to ambulate. Defendant West Palm Plaza, Inc. (“West Palm Plaza”) owns a shopping center located at 2301-2399 West 52nd Street, Hialeah, FL. Defendant Manhattan Big Apple, Inc., doing business as Manhattan Pizza Place (“Manhattan Pizza”), leases a restaurant in West Palm Plaza's shopping center. West Palm Plaza has asserted a cross-claim against Manhattan Pizza, asserting that, pursuant to its lease agreement, Manhattan Pizza is obligated to indemnify West Palm Plaza for any liability in this matter. The Plaintiff has reached a settlement agreement with Manhattan Pizza but West Palm Plaza continues to pursue its cross-claim against Manhattan Pizza.

         The parties do not dispute that the shopping center is a place of public accommodation under the ADA. Nor do they dispute whether the Plaintiff is a qualified individual under the ADA. The issue remaining to be determined is: whether the Plaintiff was denied the full and equal enjoyment of West Palm Plaza's goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations because of his disability.

         On November 27, 2017, the Court held a non-jury trial. Prior to the trial, the parties submitted a Joint Pretrial Stipulation (ECF No. 59), as well as their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law (ECF Nos. 61, 62.) The Court has carefully reviewed these submissions.

         At the close of the Plaintiff's case, West Palm Plaza moved for judgment, which the Court construed as a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(c) for a judgment on partial findings.

         The Court has considered the credible testimony and evidence presented by the Plaintiff. The Court has further considered the applicable law. The Court, as announced on the record, finds that the Plaintiff failed to carry his burden of establishing that Defendant West Palm Plaza violated the Plaintiff's rights under the ADA. As a result, the Court finds in favor of the Defendant West Palm Plaza on Count One, the only count, of the Complaint. Following the announcement of the Court's ruling, West Palm Plaza and Manhattan Pizza informed the Court that they had resolved West Palm Plaza's cross-claim.

         1. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 52(c), “if a party has been fully heard on an issue during a nonjury trial and the court finds against the party on that issue, the court may enter judgment against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(c). A judgment on partial findings must be supported by separately stated findings of fact and conclusions of law. Id.

         “A Rule 52(c) motion may be granted if . . . based on the evidence before it, the court finds, after resolving the credibility issues and weighing the evidence, for the defendant.” Denson v. United States, 574 F.3d 1318, 1334 n. 48 (11th Cir. 2009). “In addressing a Rule 52(c) motion, the court does not view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, as it would in passing on a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment or a Rule 50(a) motion for judgment as a matter of law; instead, it exercises its role as factfinder.” United States v. $242, 484.00, 389 F.3d 1149, 1172 (11th Cir. 2004). “[T]he court must weigh the evidence and may consider the witnesses' credibility.” Caro-Galvan v. Curtis Richardson, Inc., 993 F.2d 1500, 1504 (11th Cir. 1993) (citing Chris Berg, Inc. v. Acme Mining Co., 893 F.2d 1235, 1238 n. 2 (11th Cir.1990).)

         2. Summary of the Testimony

         A. Risset Ferro (West Palm Plaza's Corporate Representative)

         Ferro works at 8155 N.W. 155 Street in Miami Lakes and has worked for West Palm Plaza, Inc. for the past 25 years. She is presently the vice president.

         There have been renovations to the Plaza such as roof and painting. She does not recall any buildings, including a car wash, having been built on the premises. She does not recall whether the ...

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