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Murphy v. Aaron's, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 22, 2019

MICHAEL G. MURPHY, Plaintiff,
v.
AARON'S, INC., a Georgia corporation, Defendant.

          RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          KRISTEN L. MIX, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [#12][1] (the “Motion”). Plaintiff filed a Response [#20] in opposition to the Motion, and Defendant filed a Reply [#25]. The Court has reviewed the Motion, the Response, the Reply, the entire case file, and the applicable law, and is sufficiently advised in the premises. For the reasons stated below, the Court respectfully RECOMMENDS that the Motion [#12] be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Michael G. Murphy (“Plaintiff”) is a Colorado resident who uses a wheelchair for mobility. Compl. [#1] ¶¶ 2, 20. Defendant is a Georgia corporation that “operates a lease-to-own business which offers furniture, electronics, and appliances to consumers pursuant to lease-to-own agreements.” Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff has visited Defendant's facility at 8455 North Pecos Street, Federal Heights, Colorado, and alleges that the property does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and its implementing regulations. Compl. [#1] ¶ 1. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he has experienced “unnecessary difficulty and risk due to a protruding curb ramp in excess of applicable ADA regulations.”[2] Id. ¶ 23. Plaintiff further alleges that he “will be deterred from returning to and fully and safely accessing Defendant's facilities . . . so long as Defendant's facilities remain non-compliant, and so long as Defendant continues to employ the same policies and practices that have led, and in the future will lead, to inaccessibility at Defendant's facilities.” Id. ¶ 26. Moreover, based on an investigation by Plaintiff's counsel of multiple locations owned, controlled, and/or operated by Defendant, Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant's policies result in similar violations at its other facilities nationwide. Id. ¶ 31. On that basis, Plaintiff also brings a class action on behalf of potential class members who have allegedly been denied equal access to Defendant's facilities across the country. Id. ¶ 36. Among his requests for relief, Plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction requiring that: “Defendant change its policies and practices so that the parking and path of travel access barriers at Defendant's facilities do not reoccur[.]” Id. ¶ 8(b).

         In the Motion [#12], Defendant first moves, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), to dismiss this particular request for injunctive relief, which, according to Defendant, seeks an injunction requiring Defendant to “undertake proactive assessment of its facilities to ensure there are no ‘parking or path of travel access barriers' at any [of] [its] facilit[ies].” [#12] at 2. Defendant next moves to dismiss or strike Plaintiff's class allegations for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), 12(f), 23(c)(1)(A), and 23(d)(1)(D). Id. at 1, 10.

         II. Standard

         A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test “the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true.” Mobley v. McCormick, 40 F.3d 337, 340 (10th Cir. 1994); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (stating that a complaint may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted”). “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.” Sutton v. Utah State Sch. for the Deaf & Blind, 173 F.3d 1226, 1236 (10th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Shero v. City of Grove, Okla., 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007) (“The complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide ‘plausible grounds' that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiff's allegations.” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)).

         “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). “A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (brackets in original; internal quotation marks omitted).

         To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Christy Sports, LLC v. Deer Valley Resort Co., 555 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2009). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” a factual allegation has been stated, “but it has not show[n][ ] that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (second brackets added; citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         B. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) provides that a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for “lack of personal jurisdiction.” “The district court is given discretion in determining the procedure to employ in considering a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.” Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Oaklawn Apartments, 959 F.2d 170, 174 (10th Cir. 1992) (internal quotations and citation omitted). A plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction, although at the preliminary stages of the litigation this burden is light. Intercon, Inc. v. Bell Atl. Internet Solutions, Inc., 205 F.3d 1244, 1247 (10th Cir. 2000). Where a district court does not hold an evidentiary hearing before dismissing the case, the plaintiff “must only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction.” Melea, Ltd. v. Jawer SC, 511 F.3d 1060, 1065 (10th Cir. 2007). “The plaintiff may meet this burden ‘by demonstrating, via affidavit or other written materials, facts that if true would support jurisdiction over the defendant.'” Id. (quoting TH Agric. & Nutrition, LLC v. Ace European Grp. Ltd., 488 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2007)). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), courts accept “as true all well-pled . . . facts alleged in [the] complaint.” Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermillion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1070 (10th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted).

         To determine whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant, “the [C]ourt must determine (1) whether the applicable statute potentially confers jurisdiction by authorizing service of process on the defendant and (2) whether the exercise of jurisdiction comports with due process.” Niemi v. Lasshofer, 770 F.3d 1331, 1348 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting Trujillo v. Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1217 (10th Cir. 2006)). “Because Colorado's long-arm statute ‘confers the maximum jurisdiction permissible consistent with the Due Process Clause . . . the first, statutory, inquiry effectively collapses into the second, constitutional, analysis.'” Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1070. Due process requires both that the defendant “purposefully established minimum contacts with the forum State” and that the “assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport with ‘fair play and substantial justice.'” Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476 (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 320 (1945)).

         The minimum contacts standard “may be satisfied by showing general or specific jurisdiction.” Niemi, 770 F.3d at 1348 (quoting Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co. v. Bartile Roofs, Inc., 618 F.3d 1153, 1159-60 (10th Cir. 2010)). For general jurisdiction, “[t]he paradigm forum for the exercise . . . is the individual's domicile.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 137 (2014). For specific jurisdiction, “the ‘minimum contacts' standard requires, first, that the out-of-state defendant must have ‘purposefully directed' [his] activities at residents of the forum state, and second, that the plaintiff's injuries must ‘arise out of' defendant's forum-related activities.” Dudnikov, 414 F.3d at 1071 (quoting Burger King, 471 U.S. at 472).

         III. ...


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