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Open Access for All, Inc. v. Town of Juno Beach

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 29, 2019




         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Defendant Town of Juno Beach's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint and Supporting Memorandum of Law [D.E. 17]. The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion, Plaintiff's Response [D.E. 20], Defendant's Reply [D.E. 22], and the record, and is otherwise fully advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Open Access For All, Inc. (“Open Access”) is a non-profit corporation that advocates for full and equal participation of its members in all aspects of society. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 16, 18, D.E. 10. Its members include individuals substantially limited in the major life activity of sight. Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff Andres Gomez is legally blind and “substantially limited in the major life activity of seeing.” Id. ¶ 24. To comprehend information on the internet, Mr. Gomez must use screen reader software that requires document information to be saved in an accessible format. Id. ¶ 26. Defendant Town of Juno Beach, Florida, a local government entity, offers a website, (“website”), where people can obtain information regarding Defendant's government and living in and visiting Defendant. Id. ¶¶ 28, 32.

         Plaintiffs allege the following: Mr. Gomez either “is considering moving” or “has concrete plans to move” from Miami. Id. ¶¶ 33, 46. He has traveled throughout Florida, has researched viable living options, and has visited Defendant. Id. ¶¶ 33, 34. Mr. Gomez has found Defendant “to be delightful, encompassing all the amenities which would make it a good environment for him and his family.” Id. ¶ 34. Defendant is a “viable option” for his home. Id. ¶¶ 33, 46. Defendant's website contains electronic documents that provide information on: (1) living in and visiting Defendant, such as electrical utility and plumbing fee sheets; (2) Defendant's policies and positions, such as tax receipt rules and regulations; and (3) council meeting agendas and decisions. Id. ¶¶ 36-39. Mr. Gomez needs the information within these electronic documents to assess his ability to move to Defendant. Id. ¶ 46.

         As an advocate of public policy for the disabled, Mr. Gomez is allegedly interested in accessing Defendant's policies regarding the disabled. Id. ¶ 35. Mr. Gomez needs access to Defendant's past actions and policies before advocating for changes in current policy. Id. ¶ 53. Plaintiffs “have been left excluded from political advocacy with [Defendant's] government” because of Defendant's failure to provide electronic documents in an accessible format. Id. ¶ 49.

         Mr. Gomez allegedly attempted to view Defendant's electronic documents in January 2019. Id. ¶ 41. “Because Defendant's electronic documents are not in an accessible format for the blind and visually impaired and are not provided in accessible HTML or PDF format, Plaintiffs [were] prevented from becoming informed about [Defendant's] governmental functioning, policies, programs, services and activities that Defendant offers to the disabled and infirm . . . .” Id. ¶ 42. Mr. Gomez contacted Defendant and requested that the electronic documents be made accessible. Id. ¶ 44. The documents remain inaccessible. Id. ¶¶ 45, 48-49, 51-52.

         Plaintiffs further allege that the inability to access Defendant's documents “has resulted in a virtual barrier which has impaired, obstructed, hindered, and impeded Plaintiffs' ability to become an involved citizen in advocating for the disabled” and to “learn about the programs, services, and activities available to disabled residents.” Id. ¶ 50. Plaintiffs “have suffered injuries and shame, humiliation, isolation, [and] segregation” and have “experienced emotional suffering, pain and anguish.” Id. ¶ 54.

         Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit, claiming that Defendant is in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act because the electronic documents on Defendant's website are inaccessible to the visually impaired. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. D.E. 10. Defendant moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) and (b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. D.E. 17.


         The question of Article III standing implicates subject matter jurisdiction and, thus, standing must be addressed as a threshold matter prior to addressing the merits of any underlying claims. Palm Beach Golf Ctr.-Boca, Inc. v. John G. Sarris, D.D.S., P.A., 781 F.3d 1245, 1250 (11th Cir. 2015). Article III of the Constitution grants federal courts judicial power to decide only actual “Cases” and “Controversies.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. Standing is a “core component” of this limitation that “determin[es] the power of the court to entertain the suit.” Hollywood Mobile Estates Ltd. v. Seminole Tribe of Fla., 641 F.3d 1259, 1264-65 (11th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted). “[A] dismissal for lack of standing has the same effect as a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1).” Stalley ex rel. U.S. v. Orlando Reg'l Healthcare Sys., Inc., 524 F.3d 1229, 1232 (11th Cir. 2008) (quotation marks omitted).

         A court may grant a party's motion to dismiss if a pleading fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss should be granted only when the pleading fails to contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The pleading must contain more than labels, conclusions, a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, and naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement. Id. The factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court accepts as true the facts alleged in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. West v. Warden, 869 F.3d 1289, 1296 (11th Cir. 2017).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiff ...

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