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Hillesheim v. Holiday Stationstores, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 10, 2018

Zach Hillesheim Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Holiday Stationstores, Inc. Defendant-Appellee Zach Hillesheim Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Holiday Stationstores, Inc. Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: June 12, 2018

          Appeals from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before WOLLMAN, ARNOLD, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

          STRAS, Circuit Judge.

         Zach Hillesheim sued Holiday Stationstores, Inc., for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act because it failed to provide a compliant handicap-accessible parking space at one of its stores. After fixing the alleged defect, Holiday moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion and dismissed all of Hillesheim's claims. Because we conclude that the district court should have remanded most, if not all, of those claims to state court, we vacate the district court's judgment.

         I.

         Hillesheim, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, noticed during a visit to a Holiday store in Jordan, Minnesota, that the access aisle next to the handicap-accessible space in the parking lot was not flat. Rather than risk his safety, he decided not to enter the store.

         Hillesheim sued Holiday in state court, alleging that it had discriminated against him under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Minnesota Human Rights Act ("MHRA") by denying him full and equal access to a place of public accommodation. See 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a); Minn. Stat. § 363A.11. For the ADA claim, his prayer for relief requested only an injunction ordering Holiday to flatten the access aisle. Under the MHRA, Hillesheim included a matching request for injunctive relief, as well as a demand for money damages for the discrimination he had allegedly suffered.

         After Hillesheim filed his lawsuit in state court, two things changed. First, Holiday removed the case to federal court. The ADA claim presented a federal question, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and the district court exercised supplemental jurisdiction over the MHRA claims, see id. § 1367. Second, Holiday fixed the alleged defect by flattening the access aisle, first temporarily and later through remodeling the entire parking lot.

         Once Holiday fixed the issue permanently, it filed for summary judgment. In support of its summary-judgment motion, Holiday attached an affidavit from its Vice President of Engineering, John Baregi, which stated that Holiday had leveled the access aisle during a renovation of its parking lot and that its intent was to comply with all accessibility requirements going forward. Accompanying Baregi's affidavit were photographs of the renovated parking lot, which displayed a flat access aisle next to the handicap-accessible space. This was the first time Holiday revealed that it had fixed the alleged problem, although photographs submitted by Hillesheim with his initial disclosures also depicted a fully flat access aisle.

         The district court granted Holiday's motion for summary judgment. It dismissed Hillesheim's ADA claim because the renovations had mooted his request for injunctive relief. The court dealt with the MHRA claim differently. Instead of relying on mootness, the court applied an affirmative defense available under Minnesota law to "place[s] of public accommodation" that remove an "architectural barrier . . . in a manner that complies with accessibility requirements." Minn. Stat. § 363A.331, subdiv. 4. According to the court, the affirmative defense provided a complete shield from liability, both from damages and from injunctive relief.

         In the course of granting summary judgment to Holiday, the district court refused to strike Baregi's affidavit, which Hillesheim thought Holiday should have disclosed long before it filed its motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(A) (requiring parties to initially disclose, among other things, "the name . . . of each individual likely to have discoverable information" and "a copy . . . of all documents . . . that the disclosing party . . . may use to support its claims or defenses"). Hillesheim appeals the denial of his motion to strike Baregi's affidavit and the dismissal of his case.

         II.

         We begin with the parties' discovery dispute. Hillesheim's position is that Holiday failed to comply with its initial-disclosure obligations under Rule 26 because it did not divulge either Baregi's name or the photographs in its possession until it filed its motion for summary judgment. According to Hillesheim, Holiday's tardy disclosure "fatally impacted [his] ability to challenge Holiday's mootness defense." The district court, for its part, assumed that Holiday violated Rule 26 but concluded that he suffered no harm from the violation. The district court did not abuse its discretion in reaching this conclusion. See Firefighters' Inst. for Racial Equal. ex rel. Anderson v. City of St. Louis, 220 F.3d 898, 902-03 (8th ...


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