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Daugherty v. Steak N Shake

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 13, 2015

MICHAEL KEITH DAUGHERTY, Plaintiff,
v.
STEAK N SHAKE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Daugherty brought this action against Defendant Steak N Shake for alleged violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12182 et seq. (the "ADA"), and Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a et seq. (the "Civil Rights Act"). Plaintiff claims servers at Defendant's restaurant discriminated against him and three friends, all of whom are disabled (one using a motorized wheelchair and the rest using canes) and African American, by ignoring them or otherwise refusing to serve them until they attempted to leave the restaurant. Plaintiff contends this treatment violated his civil rights because white customers who entered the restaurant after Plaintiff and his friends were promptly served. Plaintiff further contends that Defendant failed to adequately train its employees and seeks injunctive relief to prohibit Defendant and its employees from engaging in similar conduct in the future. Defendant has moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff cannot establish essential elements of his discrimination claims. Defendant further contends that Plaintiff lacks standing to seek injunctive relief. (Doc. 48). For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

Defendant Steak N Shake operates a restaurant located at 10459 Page Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. It is Defendant's policy to immediately greet, seat, and serve all customers who enter its restaurant. If a customer is part of an incomplete party, Defendant's policy is to give the customer the choice of placing an order, ordering drinks, or waiting for the rest of their party.

On the morning of October 11, 2012, Plaintiff and three friends met for breakfast at Defendant's Page Avenue restaurant. Plaintiff and his friends are all African American and, on the morning of October 11th, all of the men used assistive devices for locomotion (one used a motorized wheelchair and Plaintiff and the other two men used canes). When Plaintiff arrived at the restaurant, two of his friends were already seated inside. Plaintiff went in to join them and was initially greeted by two African American servers (Christine Scott and Johnetta Williams). When the servers said nothing beyond their initial greeting, and failed to offer to seat Plaintiff, Plaintiff seated himself with his friends. The fourth member of the party joined the group approximately five minutes after Plaintiff arrived.

Although neither Plaintiff nor any of his friends got up to approach any of the servers, Plaintiff's friends made multiple attempts to get the attention of the two servers by waving and calling. They were ignored. While Plaintiff and his friends were waiting to be served, two different white male customers entered the restaurant. Each was waited on and served. After approximately twenty-five minutes without a server approaching Plaintiff's table, Plaintiff and his friends left the restaurant. As Plaintiff and his friends were leaving the restaurant, an employee from the restaurant followed Plaintiff to the parking lot, apologized, and offered to serve Plaintiff. Plaintiff refused to return to the restaurant.

Later the same day, Plaintiff contacted Defendant's hotline and made a complaint about being denied service. Defendant's District Manager called Plaintiff the same day to discuss his complaint, apologized to him, and mailed him a $35 gift card. Plaintiff has not used the gift card but testified that he would return to the restaurant in the future if a court enjoins Defendant from discriminating against him.

In her deposition, Defendant's corporate representative, Adrianne Pfeiffer, conceded that twenty-five minutes is a long time for a customer not to have any contact with a server, and that such a customer might realistically believe he or she was not going to get served at all. Cornelia Kimbrough, a server who worked at the restaurant on October 11th, similarly testified that it would be "unusual" for a party of four to wait twenty-five minutes without being served, given menus, offered water, drinks, or having their orders taken. Both Pfeiffer and Kimbrough testified that they would understand why such a party might leave the restaurant under such circumstances.

II. THE LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The Court shall grant a motion for summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case." Othman v. City of Country Club Hills, 671 F.3d 672, 675 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis of its motion and of identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party meets this initial burden, the non-moving party must then set forth affirmative evidence from which a jury might return a verdict in his or her favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. The non-moving party "may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 256. "Mere allegations, unsupported by specific facts or evidence beyond the nonmoving party's own conclusions, are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment." Thomas v. Corwin, 483 F.3d 516, 527 (8th Cir. 2007).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. Peebles v. Potter, 354 F.3d 761, 765 (8th Cir. 2004). The Court's function is not to weigh the evidence, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

III. DISCUSSION

A. PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION RACE DISCRIMINATION CLAIM

Plaintiff claims Defendant violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination in public accommodations and guarantees that "[a]ll persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation... without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(a). Where, as here, there is no direct evidence of racial discrimination, courts faced with a Title II public accommodation claim typically borrow the burden-shifting framework articulated in the Title VII ...


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