Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fourth Circuit Issues Good Standing Opinion

Jessie Weber passes along word that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in her favor today in Daniels v. Arcade, L.P..  The plaintiff sued to challenge inaccessible features at Baltimore's Lexington Market, but the district court dismissed for lack of standing.  Reversing in an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit explained:
Although we agree with the district court that Daniels was required to state a plausible allegation that there is a likelihood that he will suffer future harm, we disagree with the district court’s conclusion that Daniels’ allegations are insufficient. Daniels alleged that he “intends to continue to visit the [Market] in the future for his shopping needs.” We must accept this allegation as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss, and we deem the allegation plausible because Daniels resides in relatively close proximity to the Market.

The district court found Daniels’ statement that he intends to return to the market implausible for two reasons. First, the district court held that Daniels’ failure to provide exact dates that he visited the Market in the past, and a more specific time at which he intends to visit the Market in the future, demonstrated the absence of a reasonable likelihood that he would return. However, we are aware of no precedent in this Circuit that requires this degree of specificity to survive a motion to dismiss, and we decline to impose such a requirement here.

Second, the district court held that Daniels’ litigation history “undermine[d]” his statements concerning his intention to return to the Market. However, we are not faced with the issue here whether a party’s extensive litigation history may be used to determine the plausibility of his alleged future intentions, because Daniels’ litigation history is scant and, thus, cannot have served to undermine his allegations. As the district court observed, Daniels was a party to two lawsuits raising claims of ADA violations in Maryland. There is no indication in the record that either of these two lawsuits was held to have been frivolous.

“The right to sue and defend in the courts . . . is one of the highest and most essential privileges of citizenship . . . [and] is granted and protected by the Federal Constitution.” Chambers v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co., 207 U.S. 142, 148 (1907). Absent a determination that Daniels has abused those privileges, we will not hold his past participation in the judicial process against him. Accordingly, we conclude that Daniels’ litigation history is not relevant to this case.

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