Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 46 Cal. 4th 661, 208 P.3d 623, 94 Cal. Rptr. 3d 685

Munson v. Del Taco

Filed 6/11/09

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

KENNETH MUNSON,
Plaintiff and Respondent,
S162818
v.
9th Cir. No. 06-56208
DEL TACO, INC.,
C.D.Cal. No.
Defendant and Appellant.
CV-05-5942-AHM

Pursuant to rule 8.548 of the California Rules of Court,1 we granted the
request of the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit to decide the
following questions of California law, as we have rephrased them (see Cal. Rules
of Court, rule 8.548(f)(5)): ―(1) ‗Must a plaintiff who seeks damages under
California Civil Code section 52, claiming the denial of full and equal treatment
on the basis of disability in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code,
§ 51) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.),
prove ―intentional discrimination‖ ‘? (2) ‗If the answer to Question 1 is ―yes,‖
what does ―intentional discrimination‖ mean in this context?‘ ‖

1
―On request of the United States Supreme Court, a United States Court of
Appeals, or the court of last resort of any state, territory, or commonwealth, the
Supreme Court may decide a question of California law if: [¶] (1) The decision
could determine the outcome of a matter pending in the requesting court; and
[¶] (2) There is no controlling precedent.‖ (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.548(a).)


Although we held in Harris v. Capital Growth Investors XIV (1991) 52
Cal.3d 1142, 1175 (Harris) that proof of intentional discrimination was necessary
to establish a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Legislature subsequently
added subdivision (f) to Civil Code section 51,2 specifying that ―[a] violation of
the right of any individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990‖
(ADA) — which does not necessarily require a plaintiff to show intentional
discrimination — ―shall also constitute a violation of this section.‖ In Lentini v.
California Center for the Arts (9th Cir. 2004) 370 F.3d 837, 846-847 (Lentini), the
federal court held section 51, subdivision (f) added ADA violations, whether or
not involving intentional discrimination, to the class of discriminatory acts for
which the Unruh Civil Rights Act provides a remedy in damages. In Gunther v.
Lin (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 223 (Gunther), however, the Court of Appeal,
expressly disagreeing with Lentini, held that while an unintentional ADA violation
was by virtue of section 51, subdivision (f) a violation of that section, no damages
remedy under section 52 is available for such a violation. (Gunther, at pp.
239-242, 255-257.)
On examining the language, statutory context, and history of section 51,
subdivision (f), we conclude Lentini‘s interpretation was right and Gunther‘s was
wrong. The Legislature‘s intent in adding subdivision (f) was to provide disabled
Californians injured by violations of the ADA with the remedies provided by
section 52. A plaintiff who establishes a violation of the ADA, therefore, need not
prove intentional discrimination in order to obtain damages under section 52. In
light of that conclusion, we need not reach the Ninth Circuit‘s second question.

2
All further unspecified statutory references are to the Civil Code.
2


FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The order of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asking this court to decide
questions of California law sets out the background of this case:
―Plaintiff Kenneth Munson has a physical disability that requires that he
use a wheelchair. Plaintiff alleges that he visited the Del Taco restaurant in San
Bernardino, California, which is owned and operated by Defendant Del Taco, Inc.
Plaintiff further alleges that, at the Del Taco restaurant, he encountered
architectural barriers that denied him legally required access to the parking area
and restrooms.[3]
―Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant in the Central District of California.
He alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (‗ADA‘), 42
U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, and the Unruh [Civil Rights] Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51.
Plaintiff sought injunctive relief, damages, and attorney fees under California Civil
Code section 52 for the alleged Unruh Act violations.
―On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted partial
summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The court reasoned that ‗there is no
genuine issue of fact that an architectural barrier existed‘ and that ‗there is no

3
In the federal district court, Munson conceded his primary complaint was
access to the restaurant‘s restroom, the doorway of which was too narrow to allow
wheelchair passage. As a result, he had to go across the street to another business
to use the restroom. He also asserted (based on photographic evidence) that the
restroom itself was not adequately designed for a wheelchair user and (from his
own experience) that the absence of a level clearance in front of the restaurant
door required him to ― ‗hang on to the door handle . . . and drag [him]self into the
restaurant while hanging on to the door handle to avoid rolling back down the
[ramp] slope.‘ ‖ (Munson v. Del Taco, Inc. (C.D.Cal., July 27, 2006, No. CV-05-
5942-AHM) 2006 WL 4704611, p. *1.) After Munson filed his complaint, Del
Taco, Inc., remodeled the restaurant (unaltered since its construction in 1981) to
correct these and other problems, at a total cost of around $66,000. (Ibid.)
3


genuine issue of fact that the restroom doorway widening was readily achievable.‘
Consequently, the court ruled ‗that there is no genuine issue of fact that an ADA
violation occurred. Thus, [Defendant] is liable under the Unruh Act and [Plaintiff]
is entitled to pursue statutory damages.‘
―The parties stipulated to $12,000 in damages under the Unruh Act in lieu
of holding a jury trial on the issue, with Defendant reserving the right to appeal
any adverse orders or judgments. The district court entered judgment, and
Defendant timely appealed the district court‘s grant of Plaintiff‘s motion for
partial summary judgment.
―Defendant argues on appeal that it is entitled to summary judgment
because intent is required under the Unruh Act and Plaintiff failed to put forth any
evidence that Defendant intentionally discriminated against him. Plaintiff does
not contend that he provided evidence that Defendant was motivated by animus
against people with disabilities, but argues that such intent is not required or, in the
alternative, that the requisite intent is the intent not to remove barriers to access
where readily achievable.‖ (Munson v. Del Taco, Inc. (9th Cir. 2008) 522 F.3d
997, 999-1000, fn. omitted.)
DISCUSSION
As always in interpreting statutes, our goal is ―to ascertain the Legislature‘s
intent so as to give effect to the law‘s purpose.‖ (In re Corrine W. (2009) 45
Cal.4th 522, 529.) With regard to the Unruh Civil Rights Act particularly, we
recently explained that it ―must be construed liberally in order to carry out its
purpose‖ to ―create and preserve a nondiscriminatory environment in California
business establishments by ‗banishing‘ or ‗eradicating‘ arbitrary, invidious
4
discrimination by such establishments.‖ (Angelucci v. Century Supper Club
(2007) 41 Cal.4th 160, 167.) The Unruh Civil Rights Act ―serves as a preventive
measure, without which it is recognized that businesses might fall into
discriminatory practices.‖ (Ibid.)
I. Statutory Background
We begin by identifying and describing the pertinent provisions of
California law and the ADA.
Section 51 provides, in pertinent part:
―(a) This section shall be known, and may be cited, as the Unruh Civil
Rights Act. [¶] (b) All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and
equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin,
disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the
full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all
business establishments of every kind whatsoever. [¶] . . . [¶] (f) A violation of
the right of any individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
(Public Law 101-336) shall also constitute a violation of this section.‖
Section 52 provides, in pertinent part:
―(a) Whoever denies, aids or incites a denial, or makes any discrimination
or distinction contrary to Section 51, 51.5, or 51.6, is liable for each and every
offense for the actual damages, and any amount that may be determined by a jury,
or a court sitting without a jury, up to a maximum of three times the amount of
actual damage but in no case less than four thousand dollars ($4,000), and any
attorney‘s fees that may be determined by the court in addition thereto, suffered by
any person denied the rights provided in Section 51, 51.5, or 51.6.‖
As we explained in Harris, supra, 52 Cal.3d at pages 1150-1152, sections
51 and 52 were originally enacted in 1905 (based on predecessor statutes) and
5
were substantially revised in 1959, when the name ―Unruh Civil Rights Act‖ was
added. (Stats. 1905, ch. 413, §§ 1, 2, pp. 553-554; Stats. 1959, ch. 1866, §§ 1, 2,
p. 4424.) While section 51‘s statement of the substantive scope of protections
afforded and section 52‘s statement of the remedies available have both changed
over the course of time, section 51 has always provided substantive protection
against invidious discrimination in public accommodations, without specifying
remedies, and section 52 has always provided remedies, including a private action
for damages, for violations of section 51.4 In Harris, therefore, we considered the
two sections as interrelated parts of the same statutory scheme (we referred to
them together as ―the Unruh Act‖), with section 52 serving ―to provide an
enforcement mechanism for section 51 and other provisions of law.‖ (Harris, at
p. 1153; see id. at pp. 1148, 1151; accord, Angelucci v. Century Supper Club,
supra, 41 Cal.4th at p. 166 [stating, with reference to § 52, ―The [Unruh Civil

4
In their 1905 forms, for example, section 51 provided that all citizens are
entitled to ―full and equal‖ treatment in ―places of public accommodation or
amusement,‖ while section 52 provided that ―[w]hoever violates any of the
provisions of the last preceding section‖ by denying such equal treatment was
liable for ―damages in an amount not less than fifty dollars, which may be
recovered in an action at law brought for that purpose.‖ (Stats. 1905, ch. 413,
§§ 1, 2, pp. 553-554.) In their 1959 forms, section 51 provided that all citizens
within the state ―are free and equal‖ and regardless of ―race, color, religion,
ancestry, or national origin‖ are entitled to full and equal treatment ―in all business
establishments of every kind whatsoever,‖ while section 52 provided that
―[w]hoever denies‖ such treatment ―contrary to the provisions of Section 51‖ was
liable for $250 per offense, as well as ―actual damages . . . suffered by any person
denied the rights provided in Section 51 of this code.‖ (Stats. 1959, ch. 1866,
§§ 1, 2, p. 4424.)
6


Rights] Act includes an enforcement provision that authorizes individual
actions‖].)5
In the portion of Harris particularly relevant here, we rejected the
plaintiffs‘ claim that a residential landlord‘s minimum income policy for
prospective renters violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act because it had a disparate
impact on women. We held the disparate impact test employed in federal and
state employment discrimination cases was inconsistent with the language of the
Unruh Civil Rights Act, several parts of which ―point to an emphasis on
intentional discrimination.‖ (Harris, supra, 52 Cal.3d at p. 1172.) In particular,
we noted section 52‘s references to ―aid[ing]‖ and ―incit[ing]‖ denials of equal
treatment, to making discriminations, and to commission of an ―offense,‖ and
further reasoned that section 52‘s provisions for minimum and exemplary damages
reflected a legislative focus on ―intentional and morally offensive conduct.‖
(Harris, at p. 1172.) We also observed that a disparate impact test appeared to
conflict with an exemption in section 51 for standards ― ‗applicable alike to
persons of every sex, color, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, or blindness or
other physical disability.‘ ‖ (Harris, at p. 1172; see current § 51, subd. (c).) From
these linguistic indications and the Unruh Civil Rights Act‘s history and
relationship to other statutes (see Harris, at pp. 1172-1174), we concluded that ―a
plaintiff seeking to establish a case under the Unruh Act must plead and prove
intentional discrimination in public accommodations in violation of the terms of
the Act.‖ (Harris, at p. 1175.)

5
Although this court and others have referred to both sections 51 and 52 as
the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the statutory label applies more precisely only to
section 51. (See § 51, subd. (a).)
7


In 1992, the year after our decision in Harris (though not, as far as the
history indicates, in response to that decision), the Legislature amended section 51
to, among other changes, add the paragraph that became subdivision (f),
specifying that ―[a] violation of the right of any individual under the Americans
with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336) shall also constitute a
violation of this section.‖ (Stats. 1992, ch. 913, § 3, p. 4284; see Stats. 2000, ch.
1049, § 2 [adding subdivision designations].) This amendment was but one part of
a broad enactment, originating as Assembly Bill No. 1077 (1991-1992 Reg. Sess.),
that sought to conform many aspects of California law relating to disability
discrimination (in employment, government services, transportation, and
communications, as well as public accommodations) to the recently enacted ADA,
which was soon to go into effect. (See Assem. Com. on Judiciary, Rep. on Assem.
Bill No. 1077 (1991-1992 Reg. Sess.) as amended Jan. 6, 1992, pp. 1-4 [digest]
(hereafter Assembly Judiciary Report on Assembly Bill No. 1077).) The general
intent of the legislation was expressed in an uncodified section: ―It is the intent of
the Legislature in enacting this act to strengthen California law in areas where it is
weaker than the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336)
and to retain California law when it provides more protection for individuals with
disabilities than the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.‖ (Stats. 1992, ch.
913, § 1, p. 4282.)
The Assembly Judiciary Report on Assembly Bill No. 1077 summarized
the bill‘s changes to the Unruh Civil Rights Act as follows: ―Include persons with
mental disabilities in the enumerated classes of individuals protected by the Unruh
Act. [¶] . . . Make a violation of the ADA a violation of the Unruh Act. Thereby
providing persons injured by a violation of the ADA with the remedies provided
by the Unruh Act (e.g., right of private action for damages).‖ (Assem. Judiciary
Rep. on Assem. Bill No. 1077, supra, at p. 2.) The corresponding Senate report
8
put forward substantially the same analysis of the bill‘s effect on Unruh Civil
Rights Act claims: ―(1) Existing law, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, entitles
protected groups, including blind and physically disabled persons, to full and
equal accommodation, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business
establishments. [¶] This bill would include persons with mental disabilities in the
enumerated classes of individuals protected by the Unruh Act. [¶] In addition, this
bill would make a violation of the ADA a violation of the Unruh Act. Thereby
providing persons injured by a violation of the ADA with the remedies provided
by the Unruh Act (e.g., right of private action for damages . . .).‖ (Sen. Com. on
Judiciary, Rep. on Assem. Bill No. 1077 (1991-1992 Reg. Sess.) as amended
June 1, 1992, p. 5 (hereafter Senate Judiciary Report on Assembly Bill No. 1077).)
The ADA‘s public accommodations provisions are contained in title III of
that law (42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189). This part of the ADA prohibits, among
other things, the ―failure to remove architectural barriers . . . in existing facilities
. . . where such removal is readily achievable.‖ (42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv).)6
Intentional discrimination need not be shown to establish a violation of the ADA‘s
access requirements, for Congress, in the ADA, sought to eliminate all forms of
invidious discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including not only
―outright intentional exclusion,‖ but also ―the discriminatory effects of
architectural, transportation, and communication barriers‖ and the ―failure to make
modifications to existing facilities.‖ (42 U.S.C. § 12101(a)(5) [congressional

6
―The term ‗readily achievable‘ means easily accomplishable and able to be
carried out without much difficulty or expense.‖ (42 U.S.C. § 12181(9).)
Pursuant to the ADA‘s provision for issuance of regulations (42 U.S.C.
§ 12186(b)), the federal government has issued ADA Accessibility Guidelines that
set forth standards of design and construction to ensure the disabled access to
public accommodations (28 C.F.R. § 36, appen. A (2008)).
9


finding]; see Lentini, supra, 370 F.3d at pp. 846-847.) Although the Attorney
General of the United States may seek damages on the aggrieved person‘s behalf,
in a private action for violation of title III no damages — only injunctive relief —
are available. (42 U.S.C. § 12188(a), (b)(2)(B); Wander v. Kaus (9th Cir. 2002)
304 F.3d 856, 858.)
With this background on the statutes involved, the issue is easily framed:
May an Unruh Civil Rights Act plaintiff relying on subdivision (f) of section 51
obtain damages for denial of full access to a business establishment in violation of
the ADA and the Unruh Civil Rights Act without proof the denial involved
intentional discrimination? We conclude that a plaintiff proceeding under section
51, subdivision (f) may obtain statutory damages on proof of an ADA access
violation without the need to demonstrate additionally that the discrimination was
intentional.
II. Statutory Language and Context
We begin with the statutory language, viewed in light of the entire
legislative scheme of which it is a part, as the language chosen is usually the surest
guide to legislative intent. (In re Corrine W., supra, 45 Cal.4th at p. 529.) To the
extent we find the statutory language susceptible of more than one reasonable
interpretation, we examine other sources, including the history of the provision‘s
enactment, for insight into the Legislature‘s intent. (Ibid.; Elsner v. Uveges (2004)
34 Cal.4th 915, 929.)
Subdivision (f) of section 51 provides that ―[a] violation of the right of any
individual‖ under the ADA is also a violation of section 51. The subdivision does
not distinguish between those ADA violations involving intentional discrimination
and those resulting, in the words of the federal law, from ―the discriminatory
effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers‖ and the
10
―failure to make modifications to existing facilities.‖ (42 U.S.C. § 12101(a)(5).)
The remedies for violation of section 51 — specified in section 52 — include a
private action for damages. A reasonable interpretation of section 51, subdivision
(f) is therefore that it, together with section 52, authorizes a private action for
damages for ADA violations without proof of intentional discrimination. This is
the reading embraced by the Lentini court (Lentini, supra, 370 F.3d at pp. 846-
847) and urged on us by plaintiff.
On the other hand, subdivision (f) of section 51 states only that an ADA
violation is also ―a violation of this section,‖ i.e., of section 51. Section 51 does
not, in itself, establish any remedy for its violation. And section 52 does not
expressly state that its remedies apply to every ―violation of section 51.‖ Instead,
section 52 applies its remedies to any person who ―denies, aids or incites a denial,
or makes any discrimination or distinction contrary to Section 51,‖ language we
read in Harris as connoting intentional discrimination. (Harris, supra, 52 Cal.3d
at p. 1172.) As a purely linguistic matter, therefore, another reasonable
interpretation of section 51, subdivision (f) is that it makes all violations of the
ADA violations of section 51 but, together with section 52, authorizes a private
action for damages under the Unruh Civil Rights Act only for ADA violations
involving intentional discrimination. This is the reading embraced by the Gunther
court (Gunther, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at pp. 234-235) and urged on us by
defendant.
Although linguistically admissible, Gunther‘s reading of the statute is not
consistent with our understanding of the Unruh Civil Rights Act as elucidated in
Harris, or with the law‘s history. As noted earlier, sections 51 and 52 have,
throughout their history, functioned as an integral legal scheme; section 51 has
defined the civil rights of Californians to equal treatment in public
accommodations, and section 52 has established the liabilities of those who violate
11
such civil rights. Section 52 has always referred expressly to violations of section
51 and provided remedies for those violations. As we said in Harris, section 52
―provide[s] an enforcement mechanism for section 51.‖ (Harris, supra, 52 Cal.3d
at p. 1153.)
In Harris, we analyzed the statutory scheme as a whole — including both
sections 51 and 52 — and concluded a violation of that law could not be
established on a disparate impact theory. Our holding in Harris was not that
section 52 required proof of intentional discrimination in order to obtain damages,
but that ―a plaintiff seeking to establish a case under the Unruh Act must plead
and prove intentional discrimination . . . .‖ (Harris, supra, 52 Cal.3d at p. 1175,
italics added.) In reaching this conclusion, we relied on a provision of section 51
providing that application of neutral standards does not violate the law and on the
entire history of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, as well as on the particular language
of section 52. (Harris, at pp. 1172-1174.) Nowhere in Harris did we suggest that
unintentional discrimination would violate section 51, but would not support an
action for damages under section 52. Rather, we held that unintentional
discrimination did not violate the Unruh Civil Rights Act at all.
The Gunther court misread our Harris decision as interpreting section 52
only, hence unaffected by the addition of subdivision (f) to section 51. (See
Gunther, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at pp. 233-235.) As a federal court (which
followed Lentini and disagreed with Gunther) explained, ―Conceptually . . .
Gunther envisions a two-step process for obtaining damages: first, the plaintiff
must prove that the defendant engaged in discrimination, Cal. Civ. Code § 51, and
second, that the discrimination was intentional, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.‖ (Wilson v.
Haria and Gogri Corp. (E.D.Cal. 2007) 479 F.Supp.2d 1127, 1137.) Because the
1992 amendment that added subdivision (f) to section 51 made no substantial
changes to the language of section 52 relied on in Harris, the Gunther court
12
believed that amendment did nothing to affect Harris‘s requirement of intentional
discrimination. (Gunther, at p. 234.) But Gunther‘s distinction between
violations of section 51 and violations of section 51 warranting a remedy under
section 52 is without historical support. Section 52 has always provided remedies
for violations of section 51, and our holding in Harris concerned both sections.
The most natural reading of the statutory language — that section 52 provides
remedies for all categories of discrimination prohibited under section 51 — is also
the reading that best accords with the law‘s history.
Section 52 authorizes a damages action against any person who ―makes any
discrimination . . . contrary to Section 51.‖ By adding subdivision (f) to section
51, making all ADA violations — whether or not involving intentional
discrimination — violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act as well, the Legislature
included ADA violations in the category of ―discrimination‖ contrary to section
51, thus making them remediable under section 52. As the Lentini court
explained, quoting an earlier district court decision, ― ‗Because the Unruh Act has
adopted the full expanse of the ADA, it must follow, that the same standards for
liability apply under both Acts.‘ ‖ (Lentini, supra, 370 F.3d at p. 847.) The effect
was to create an exception to Harris‘s holding that ―a plaintiff seeking to establish
a case under the Unruh [Civil Rights] Act must plead and prove intentional
discrimination . . . .‖ (Harris, supra, 52 Cal.3d at p. 1175.)
III. Legislative History
We also find compelling evidence of legislative intent in the legislative
history of the 1992 amendment, Assembly Bill No. 1077 (1991-1992 Reg. Sess.).
As noted, Assembly members were told that by adding subdivision (f) to section
51 the bill would ―[m]ake a violation of the ADA a violation of the Unruh Act.
Thereby providing persons injured by a violation of the ADA with the remedies
13
provided by the Unruh Act (e.g., right of private action for damages).‖ (Assem.
Judiciary Rep. on Assem. Bill No. 1077, supra, at p. 2, italics added.) Senators
were told ―this bill would make a violation of the ADA a violation of the Unruh
Act. Thereby providing persons injured by a violation of the ADA with the
remedies provided by the Unruh Act (e.g., right of private action for damages
. . .).‖ (Sen. Judiciary Rep. on Assem. Bill No. 1077, supra, at p. 5, italics added.)
The ADA, as explained above, permits a disabled individual denied access
to public accommodations to recover damages in a government enforcement
action only, not through a private action by the aggrieved person. But by
incorporating the ADA into the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California‘s own civil
rights law covering public accommodations, which does provide for such a private
damages action, the Legislature has afforded this remedy to persons injured by a
violation of the ADA. The legislative history shows the Legislature contemplated
and intended this effect, for, as both the legislative committee reports quoted
above state, one purpose of the legislation was to ―provid[e] persons injured by a
violation of the ADA with the remedies provided by the Unruh Act,‖ including a
―right of private action for damages.‖ Contrary to the Gunther court‘s reading,
therefore, the evidence is clear that the 1992 law was intended not only to prohibit
ADA violations under section 51, but when such violations occur to provide a
damages remedy under section 52.7

7
Although Gunther discusses the legislative history of Assembly Bill No.
1077 (1991-1992 Reg. Sess.) at length, citing among other sources these reports of
the two houses‘ judiciary committees (Gunther, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at pp.
244-249), the decision, inexplicably, fails to address the directly pertinent
passages quoted above.
14


The legislative history, true, does not explicitly mention ADA violations
that do not involve intentional discrimination. But neither does it mention those
that do. Rather, like the language of the amendment itself, it demonstrates an
intent to incorporate ADA accessibility standards comprehensively into the Unruh
Civil Rights Act and thus to provide a damages remedy for any violation of the
ADA‘s mandate of equal access to public accommodations. That broad remedial
intent covers the particular circumstance before us.
Any doubt remaining after examination of the language, context, and
history of section 51, subdivision (f) would be resolved by the principle that the
Unruh Civil Rights Act ―must be construed liberally in order to carry out its
purpose,‖ which is to ―create and preserve a nondiscriminatory environment in
California business establishments.‖ (Angelucci v. Century Supper Club, supra,
41 Cal.4th at p. 167.) The Legislature having decided, in the 1992 amendment, to
pursue the Unruh Civil Rights Act‘s goal of equality by incorporating ADA
accessibility law into California‘s own law, in the absence of contrary legislative
direction we may not choose a restrictive reading of that amendment over a
reasonable reading that gives full effect to the law‘s guarantees.
We turn to two of the main reasons defendant and the Gunther court gave
for their interpretation: the relationship between the Unruh Civil Rights Act and
similar legislation, and the goal of curbing abusive litigation practices.
IV. Relationship to Other Statutes
The Gunther court relied heavily on what it perceived as a deliberate
legislative choice to require proof of intentional discrimination under the Unruh
Civil Rights Act, pursuant to which plaintiffs recover minimum damages of
$4,000 (see § 52, subd. (a)), while allowing unintentional ADA access violations
15
to be remedied under the Disabled Persons Act (§§ 54-55.3),8 another California
statutory scheme guaranteeing access to individuals with disabilities, which
provides for minimum damages of only $1,000 (see § 54.3, subd. (a)). (Gunther,
supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at pp. 239-242.) The court believed that under its
interpretation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, ―the two statutes dovetail nicely.
Where there is intentional discrimination, there is a four times larger minimum
penalty; if there isn‘t, plaintiff still recovers, but less.‖ (Gunther, at p. 242.)
Historically, however, it could not have been the Legislature‘s intent to
create the contrasting set of remedies Gunther describes. That is because in 1992,
when the Legislature added subdivision (f) to section 51, making violations of the
ADA violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act as well (and doing the same for the
Disabled Persons Act by adding subdivision (d) to section 54.1), the minimum
damages under the two laws were identical, $250. (Historical and Statutory
Notes, 6 West‘s Ann. Civ. Code (2007 ed.) foll. § 52, pp. 577-578; Historical and
Statutory Notes, 6A West‘s Ann. Civ. Code (2007 ed.) foll. § 54.3, p. 21; Stats.

8
Part 2.5 of division 1 of the Civil Code, currently consisting of sections 54
to 55.3, is commonly referred to as the ―Disabled Persons Act,‖ although it has no
official title. (See, e.g., Gunther, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at p. 239; Wilson v.
Haria and Gogri Corp.
, supra, 479 F.Supp.2d at pp. 1135, 1139-1140.) Sections
54 and 54.1 generally guarantee individuals with disabilities equal access to public
places, buildings, facilities and services, as well as common carriers, housing and
places of public accommodation, while section 54.3 specifies remedies for
violations of these guarantees, including a private action for damages. In a
decision predating Harris, supra, 52 Cal.3d 1142, the Court of Appeal held such
an action did not require proof of an intent to discriminate. (Donald v. Cafe
Royale, Inc.
(1990) 218 Cal.App.3d 168, 176-180; see also Lonberg v. City of
Riverside
(C.D.Cal. 2004) 300 F.Supp.2d 942, 949-951 [despite some similarity
between the language of § 54.3 and that of § 52 relied on in Harris, differences in
the histories and other provisions of the two statutory schemes suggest Harris did
not implicitly overrule Donald v. Cafe Royale, Inc.].)
16


1976, ch. 366, § 2, p. 1013; Stats. 1981, ch. 395, § 1, p. 1583.) The 1992
amendment could not, therefore, have been intended to balance a greater scienter
requirement in section 52 with greater minimum damages, as the Gunther court
imagined.9
Nor is Gunther persuasive in its assertion that Lentini‘s interpretation,
under which ADA violations, even if not involving intentional discrimination,
would be remediable by either section 52 or section 54.3 (Lentini, supra, 370 F.3d
at pp. 846-847), ―renders section 54.3 . . . redundant‖ (Gunther, supra, 144
Cal.App.4th at p. 241). The Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Disabled Persons Act
clearly have significant areas of overlapping application, although the Unruh Civil
Rights Act, of course, applies to many more types of discrimination, while the
Disabled Persons Act contains unique specific provisions regarding guide, service,
and signal dogs (§ 54.2) and may apply to more public places, facilities, and

9
Nor does the subsequent amendment history of the two statutes suggest any
such intent on the part of later Legislatures. In 1994, the section 52 minimum was
raised to $1,000 and that of section 54.3 to $750 (in a different enactment), but the
latter was raised to $1,000 two years later. (Stats. 1994, ch. 535, § 1, p. 2760;
Stats. 1994, ch. 1257, § 4, p. 7894; Stats. 1996, ch. 498, § 2.3, p. 2954.) In 2001,
the Legislature increased the section 52 minimum to $4,000, to increase deterrence
against civil rights violations profitable to businesses but causing relatively little
individual damage, such as gender discounts forbidden by section 51.6. (Stats.
2001, ch. 261, § 1; Sen. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 587
(2001-2002 Reg. Sess.) as amended Mar. 26, 2001, pp. 6-7.) A bill to again
equalize the two minimums by raising that in section 54.3 to $4,000 was passed by
the Legislature in 2004, but vetoed by the Governor on the ground it would ―have
the effect of extorting money from state and local governments much the same
way violations under the Unruh Act extort money from small businesses.‖
(Governor‘s veto message to Assem. on Assem. Bill No. 1707 (Aug. 27, 2004)
6 Assem.J. (2003-2004 Reg. Sess.) p. 8125.) Absent from the history of either the
2001 legislation or the vetoed 2004 bill is any suggestion that the Unruh Civil
Rights Act carries a higher minimum because it requires proof of intentional
discrimination.
17


services than the Unruh Civil Rights Act. (Compare § 51, subd. (b) [―all business
establishments of every kind whatsoever‖] with § 54, subd. (a) [―streets,
highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings . . . and other public places‖] and
§ 54.1, subd. (a)(1) [―accommodations, advantages, facilities, . . . telephone
facilities, . . . places to which the general public is invited‖].) Recognizing the
substantial overlap, the Legislature has expressly prohibited double recovery under
sections 52 and 54.3. (§ 54.3, subd. (c).)10 As to ADA violations, the overlap is
plainly deliberate, the Legislature having specified that ADA violations are also
violations of both the Unruh Civil Rights Act (§ 51, subd. (f)) and the Disabled
Persons Act (§ 54.1, subd. (d)). This acknowledged overlap, therefore, does not
require us to restrict, artificially and contrary to the statutory language, the types
of ADA violations remediable under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Gunther also noted that under its interpretation of section 51, subdivision
(f), violations of the ADA that do not involve intentional discrimination might still
find a remedy in California law through an action charging an unlawful business
practice (Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 17200, 17203). (Gunther, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th

10
Indeed, in 1996, when the Legislature added subdivision (c) to section 54.3,
it also adjusted the Disabled Persons Act‘s minimum damages to equal those in
the Unruh Civil Rights Act. (Stats. 1996, ch. 498, § 2.3, p. 2955.) The legislative
history indicates it did so largely because of the significant overlap between the
two laws: ―The concept that the penalties for violation of the specific disabled
person access statutes should be the same as the remedies and penalties for
violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act‘s general prohibitions against
discrimination seems sound. Since all acts that would violate the specific statutes,
other than denial of access to assistance dog trainers[,] would also constitute
violations of the general Unruh Civil Rights Act, it seems nonsensical to have the
minimum penalty depend upon the statute that the aggrieved person happens to
cite in his or her complaint.‖ (Assem. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Sen. Bill
No. 1687 (1995-1996 Reg. Sess.) as amended Apr. 25, 1996, p. 3.)
18


at p. 234.) Though true, that could not have been a purpose of adding subdivision
(f) to section 51 of the Civil Code. Violations of federal as well as state and local
law may serve as the predicate for an unlawful practice claim under Business and
Professions Code section 17200. (See Quacchia v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (2004)
122 Cal.App.4th 1442, 1450, fn. 5; Saunders v. Superior Court (1994) 27
Cal.App.4th 832, 838-839.) Assuming all other requirements for such an action
were met, therefore, violations of the ADA‘s accessibility mandate, whether
involving intentional discrimination or not, would be remediable through Business
and Professions Code sections 17200 and 17203. It did not take incorporation of
the ADA mandate into the Unruh Civil Rights Act to achieve that result.
V. Prevention of Abusive Litigation
Finally, defendant argues that interpreting section 51, subdivision (f) and
the Unruh Civil Rights Act as a whole to permit a damages remedy for ADA
accessibility violations that do not involve intentional discrimination ―would spur
abuses in an already troubled legal arena.‖ (See Gunther, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th
at pp. 250-251 [reviewing federal court decisions noting a pattern of abusive
litigation under the ADA and state law].) We recently addressed a similar
argument that in order to suppress abusive litigation by serial plaintiffs or
attorneys seeking only financial gain, often through extortion of settlements from
small businesses, more should be required of Unruh Civil Rights Act plaintiffs.
(Angelucci v. Century Supper Club, supra, 41 Cal.4th at p. 178.)11 Observing that
we ―share[d] to some degree the[se] concerns,‖ we nonetheless found they ―do not

11
Though Angelucci arose in the context of gender discrimination, not denial
of access to the disabled, we noted that much of the abusive litigation debate
centered on ADA access suits. (Angelucci v. Century Supper Club, supra, 41
Cal.4th at p. 178, fn. 10.)
19


supply a justification for our inserting additional elements of proof into the cause
of action defined by the statute. It is for the Legislature (or the People through the
initiative process) to determine whether to alter the statutory elements of proof to
afford business establishments protection against abusive private legal actions and
settlement tactics. It is for the Legislature, too, to consider whether limitations on
the current statutory private cause of action might unduly weaken enforcement of
the Act or place unwarranted barriers in the way of those persons who suffer
discrimination and whose interests were intended to be served by the Act.‖ (Id. at
p. 179.) Here, too, we are bound to interpret the Unruh Civil Rights Act in
accordance with the legislative intent as we can best discern it, regardless of any
policy views we may hold.
In its most recent regular session, moreover, the Legislature tackled the
challenge of improving compliance with access laws while protecting businesses
from abusive access litigation. In chapter 549 of the 2008 Statutes (Sen. Bill No.
1608 (2007-2008 Reg. Sess.)), the Legislature enacted several provisions with this
purpose, including: (1) a requirement that any attorney serving a complaint or
sending a demand for money for a ―construction-related accessibility claim‖12
must include a notice informing the recipient, among other things, that he or she is
not required to pay any money until found liable by a court and may have a right
to have the action stayed pending an early evaluation conference (§ 55.3);

12
A ―construction-related accessibility claim‖ includes a public
accommodation access claim brought under the Unruh Civil Rights Act or the
Disabled Persons Act for violation of a ―construction-related accessibility
standard.‖ (§ 55.52, subd. (a)(1).) The latter term refers to a state or federal
standard or regulation for making facilities, whether existing or newly constructed,
accessible to persons with disabilities and includes the ADA and the ADA
Accessibility Guidelines. (§ 55.52, subd. (a)(6).)
20


(2) procedures for voluntary inspection of a property by a ―certified access
specialist‖ or ―CASp‖ (§ 55.53); (3) procedures for staying actions raising
construction-related accessibility claims for 90 days (extendable to 180 days), if
the property has been inspected by a CASp, for the plaintiff to provide details of
his or her claims, damages, and attorney fees incurred, and for the court to hold an
early evaluation conference during the stay period in order to evaluate the site‘s
current condition and progress toward correcting any alleged violations, settlement
possibilities, and sharing of further information between the parties (§ 55.54); and
(4) provisions for the court to consider written settlement offers made and rejected
when determining the amount of reasonable attorney fees on a construction-related
accessibility claim (§ 55.55).
Most pertinent here, the new legislation (applicable to claims filed on or
after January 1, 2009 (§ 55.57)) restricts the availability of statutory damages
under sections 52 and 54.3, permitting their recovery only if an accessibility
violation actually denied the plaintiff full and equal access, that is, only if ―the
plaintiff personally encountered the violation on a particular occasion, or the
plaintiff was deterred from accessing a place of public accommodation on a
particular occasion‖ (§ 55.56, subd. (b)). It also limits statutory damages to one
assessment per occasion of access denial, rather than being based on the number of
accessibility standards violated. (Id., subd. (e).)
The 2008 Legislature was informed — and may be presumed to have been
aware — that damages under the Unruh Civil Rights Act might be awarded for
denial of ADA mandated access without proof of intentional discrimination.13

13
See Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Analysis of Senate Bill No. 1608
(2007-2008 Reg. Sess.) as amended April 21, 2008, page 7 (noting that in the
context of an ADA violation, federal case law ―provides that a plaintiff is not

(footnote continued on next page)
21


Yet, although two other bills introduced in the same session would have required
accessibility plaintiffs to give businesses prelitigation notice of any violation and
an opportunity to cure,14 the reform approach the Legislature ultimately chose did
not include requiring such notice or other proof of intent to discriminate. Instead,
the Legislature chose to impose limitations on damages and attorney fees, coupled
with a scheme of accessibility inspections, stays of litigation, and mandatory
evaluation conferences. Even if we agreed with defendant that adding an intent
requirement to the Unruh Civil Rights Act would be warranted to curb abuse, we
would not be free to substitute our own judgment for that of the Legislature.

(footnote continued from previous page)
required to show intentional discrimination in order to recover under Unruh‖);
Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, Analysis of Senate Bill No. 1608 (2007-
2008 Reg. Sess.) as amended May 27, 2008, page 4 (same).

Defendant argues that one part of the new law, by stating that the law does
not require a property owner to hire a CASp and that the failure to do so may not
be used to show ―lack of intent to comply with the law‖ (§ 55.53, subd. (f)),
implies that intent is required for statutory or compensatory damages under section
52, subdivision (a). But the legislative history quoted above rebuts any such
inference. In any event, intent to comply with or violate the law might be relevant
on a number of other issues, including the award of treble damages (§ 52, subd.
(a)) or exemplary damages (id., subd. (b)(1)) and the propriety of a civil
enforcement action by the California Attorney General or district attorneys (id.,
subd. (c)).
14
Both bills, Assembly Bill No. 2533 (2007-2008 Reg. Sess.) and Senate Bill
No. 1766 (2007-2008 Reg. Sess.), failed passage in committee.
22


CONCLUSION
For the above reasons, we answer the Ninth Circuit‘s first question (― ‗Must
a plaintiff who seeks damages under California Civil Code section 52, claiming
the denial of full and equal treatment on the basis of disability in violation of the
Unruh Civil Rights Act . . . and the [ADA], prove ―intentional discrimination‖ ‘?‖)
in the negative.
Insofar as they hold to the contrary, Gunther v. Lin, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th
223, and Coronado v. Cobblestone Village Community Rentals (2008) 163
Cal.App.4th 831 are overruled.
We do not answer the Ninth Circuit‘s second question (― ‗If the answer to
Question 1 is ―yes,‖ what does ―intentional discrimination‖ mean in this
context?‘ ‖) as it is premised on an affirmative answer to the first.
WERDEGAR, J.
WE CONCUR:
GEORGE, C. J.
KENNARD, J.
BAXTER, J.
CHIN, J.
MORENO, J.
CORRIGAN, J.
23
See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion Munson v. Del Taco, Inc.
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion


Original Appeal
Original Proceeding XXX on certification pursuant to rule 8.548, Cal. Rules of Court
Review Granted
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.

S162818
Date Filed: June 11, 2009
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:


County:
Judge:


__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Appellant:

Call, Jensen & Ferrell, Scott J. Ferrell, Lisa A. Wegner and Melinda Evans for Defendant and Appellant.

Baraban & Teske, Jeffrey H. Baraban, Christopher S. Teske and James S. Link for Los Burritos, Inc., as
Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Law Office of Anthony T. Caso and Anthony T. Caso for National Federation of Independent Business
Small Business Legal Center as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.


__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Respondent:

Center for Disability Access, Mark D. Potter, Russell C. Handy; Law Offices of Lynn Hubbard and
Scottlynn J. Hubbard IV for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Brad Seligman, Jason Tarricone; and Anne Menasche for California Council of the Blind, California
Foundation for Independent Living Center, Californians for Disability Rights, Disability Rights Advocates,
Disablity Rights California, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Disabilty Rights Legal Center,
Impact Fund and Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and
Respondent.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., Tara L. Borelli and Scott A. Schoettes for Aids Legal
Referral Panel, Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Bienestar, Black Coalition on Aids, Common
Ground-Westside HIV Community Center, Face to Face Sonoma County Aids Network, HIV/Aids Legal
Services Alliance, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Resources for Indian Student Education, Inc., San
Francisco Aids Foundation, San Joaquin Aids Foundation and Sierra Health Resources, Inc., as Amici
Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.


Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Lisa A. Wegner
Call, Jensen & Ferrell
620 Newport Center Drive, Suite 700
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 717-3000

Russell C. Handy
Center for Disability Access
100 East San Marcos Boulevard, Suite 400
San Marcos, CA 92069
(760) 480-4162

Brad Seligman
Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 845-3473

25


Request under California Rules of Court, rule 8.548, that this court decide questions of California law presented in a matter pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The questions presented, as restated by this court, are: "(1) Must a plaintiff who seeks damages under California Civil Code section 52, claiming the denial of full and equal treatment on the basis of disability in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code, section 51) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. section 12101 et seq.), prove 'intentional discrimination'? (2) If the answer to Question 1 is 'yes,' what does 'intentional discrimination' mean in this context?"

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:Category:Status:Cross Referenced Cases:
Thu, 06/11/200946 Cal. 4th 661, 208 P.3d 623, 94 Cal. Rptr. 3d 685S162818Question of Law - Civilclosed; remittitur issued

Gunther v. Lin, 144 Cal.App.4th 223
Coronado v. Cobblestone Village Community Rentals 163, Cal.App.4th 831


Parties
1Munson, Kenneth (Plaintiff and Appellant)
Represented by Scottlynn J. Hubbard
Law Offices of Lynn Hubbard
12 Williamsburg Lane
Chico, CA

2Munson, Kenneth (Plaintiff and Appellant)
Represented by Mark Dee Potter
Center for Disability Access, LLP
100 E. San Marcos Boulevard, Suite 400
San Marcos, CA

3Munson, Kenneth (Plaintiff and Appellant)
Represented by Russell Clive Handy
Center for Disability Access, LLP
100 E. San Marcos Boulevard, Suite 400
San Marcos, CA

4Del Taco, Inc (Defendant and Appellant)
Represented by Scott Jason Ferrell
Call Jensen & Ferrell
610 Newport Center Drive, Suite 700
Newport Beach, CA

5Del Taco, Inc (Defendant and Appellant)
Represented by Lisa Amy Wegner
Call Jensen & Ferrell
610 Newport Center Drive, Suite 700
Newport Beach, CA

6Del Taco, Inc (Defendant and Appellant)
Represented by Melinda Evans
Call Jensen & Ferrell
610 Newport Center Drive, Suite 700
Newport Beach, CA

7AIDS Legal Referral Panel (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Tara Lynn Borelli
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
3325 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1300
Los Angeles, CA

8AIDS Legal Referral Panel (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Scott A. Schoettes
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
11 East Adams Street, Suite 1008
Chicago, IL

9California Council of the Blind (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brad S. Seligman
The Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA

10California Foundation for Independent Living (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brad S. Seligman
The Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA

11Disability Rights Advocates (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brad S. Seligman
The Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA

12Disability Rights California (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Ann E. Menasche
Protection & Advocacy, Inc.
1111 Sixth Avenue, Suite 200
San Diego, CA

13Disibility Rights Education & Defense Fund (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brad S. Seligman
The Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA

14Disability Rights Legal Center (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brad S. Seligman
The Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA

15Employment Law Center (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brad S. Seligman
The Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA

16Impact Fund (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brad S. Seligman
The Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA

17Legal Aid Society (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Brad S. Seligman
The Impact Fund
125 University Avenue, Suite 102
Berkeley, CA

18Los Burritos, Inc. (Amicus curiae)
Represented by James S. Link
Attorney at Law
215 N. Marengo, 3rd Floor
Pasadena, CA

19National Federation of Independent Business (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Anthony T. Caso
Law Office of Anthony T. Caso
8001 Folsom Boulevard, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA


Opinion Authors
OpinionJustice Kathryn M. Werdegar
ConcurChief Justice Ronald M. George, Justice Carlos R. Moreno, Justice Carol A. Corrigan, Justice Joyce L. Kennard, Justice Marvin R. Baxter, Justice Ming W. Chin

Disposition
Jun 11 2009Opinion filed

Dockets
Apr 21 2008Request to answer question of state law filed
By The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Apr 21 2008Received:
Appellant's (Del Taco, Inc.) Opening Brief Appellee's (Kenneth Munson) Answering Brief Appellant's (Del Taco, Inc.) Reply Brief
May 2 2008Received:
Letter in support of acceptance of certified questions. Los Burritos, Inc. and Golden Eagle Insurance Company by James S. Link, counsel
May 8 2008Received:
letter from appellant to urge the court to accept for review the two questions certified in the Ninth Circuit's order. by Melinda Evans, counsel
May 12 2008Received:
letter from Angela Sierra, Supervising Deputy Attorney General on behalf of the Dept of Fair Employment & Housing urging court to accept the questions certified by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jun 13 2008Time extended to grant or deny review
The time for granting or denying review in the above-entitled matter is hereby extended to and including July 18, 2008, or the date upon which review is either granted or denied.
Jun 25 2008Request for certification granted
The request, made pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 8.548, that this court decide questions of California law presented in a matter pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is granted. Pursuant to rule 8.548(f)(5) of the California Rules of Court, this court restates the certified questions as follows: (1) "Must a plaintiff who seeks damages under California Civil Code section 52, claiming the denial of full and equal treatment on the basis of disability in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code, ? 51) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C.? 12101 et seq.), prove 'intentional discrimination' "? (2) "If the answer to Question 1 is 'yes,' what does 'intentional discrimination' mean in this context?" For the purposes of briefing and oral argument, defendant Del Taco, Inc. is deemed petitioner in this court. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.520(a)(6).) George, C.J., was absent and did not participate. Corrigan, J., was absent and did not participate. Votes: Chin, A.C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, and Moreno, JJ.
Jul 10 2008Certification of interested entities or persons filed
Del Taco, Inc., appellant by Lisa A. Wegner, counsel
Jul 17 2008Request for extension of time filed
Del Taco, Inc., appellant, requests a 21 day extension of time to file their opening brief on the merits.
Jul 21 2008Extension of time granted
On application of petitioner and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the petitioner's opening brief on the merits is extended to and including August 15, 2008.
Aug 15 2008Opening brief on the merits filed
Del Taco, Inc., petittioner
Sep 8 2008Request for extension of time filed
Kenneth Munson - Appellant requesting twenty one (21) day extension until October 5, 2008. by Russell C. Handy, counsel
Sep 10 2008Extension of time granted
On application of plaintiff and appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the answer brief on the merits is extended to and including October 5, 2008.
Sep 25 2008Request for judicial notice filed (granted case)
Kenneth Munson, plaintiff and appellant by Russell C. Handy, counsel
Sep 26 2008Answer brief on the merits filed
Appellant Kenneth Munson ~Attorneys Russell C. Handy, etal
Oct 1 2008Request for extension of time filed
Appellant - Del Taco, Inc., requesting twenty one day extension until November 6, 2008 to file reply brief on the merits. by Lisa A. Wegner, counsel
Oct 6 2008Extension of time granted
On application of Del Taco, Inc., and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the reply brief on the merits is extended to and including November 6, 2008.
Oct 8 2008Opposition filed
Appellant - Del Taco, Inc. oppostiiton to respondent's motion requesting judicial notice of legilative history materials. by Melinda Evans, counsel
Nov 5 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
Los Burritos, Inc. [in support of aplt Del Taco, Inc.] ~Attorney James S. Link
Nov 6 2008Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
Appellant Del Taco, Inc. ~Attorneys Lisa A. Wegner, etal
Nov 6 2008Request for judicial notice filed (granted case)
Appellant Del Taco, Inc. ~Attorneys Lisa A. Wegner, etal
Nov 12 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
Los Burritos, Inc. in support of defendant and appeallant - Del Taco, Inc. by James S. Link, counsel
Nov 12 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
The application of Los Burritos, Inc. for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of defendant and appeallant is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the biref.
Nov 21 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
appellant Kenneth Munson, to ac brief Los Burritos, Inc.
Nov 25 2008Request for extension of time filed
Amicus Curiae - HIV Service and Advocacy Organization requesting extension until December 22, 2008 to file Amicus Curiae Brief in support of respondent. by Tara L. Borelli, counsel
Nov 26 2008Request for extension of time filed
Amicus Curiae - Impact Fund requesting extension until December 22, 2008 to file Amicus Curiae Brief in support of respondent Kenneth Munson. by Brad Segelman, counsel
Dec 3 2008Extension of time granted
On application of HIV Service and Advocacy Organizations and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the Amicus curiae Brief is extended to and including December 22, 2008. No further extensions will be granted.
Dec 3 2008Extension of time granted
On application of Impact Fund and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the Amicus Curiae Brief is extended to and including December 22, 2008. No further extensions will be granted.
Dec 8 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center [in support of appellant Del Taco, Inc.] by Anthony T. Caso, counsel
Dec 12 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
National Federation of Independent Business Small business Legal Center in support of appellant - Del Taco, Inc. by Anthony T. Caso, counsel
Dec 12 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
The application of National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of appellant - Del Taco, Inc. is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Dec 19 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
California Council of the Blind, California Foundation for Independent Living Center, Californias for Disability Rights, Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Disability Rights Legal Center, Impact Fund, and Legal Aid Society, Employment Law center in support of respondent. by Brad Seligman, counsel
Dec 19 2008Application to appear as counsel pro hac vice (granted case)
Attorney Scott A. Schoettes for ACs AIDS Legal Referral Panel, etal
Dec 19 2008Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
Amicus Curiae - Aids Legal Referral Panel, et al., in support of respondent. by Tara L. Borelli, counsel
Dec 19 2008Received:
Dec 30 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
Aids Legal Referral Panel, et al., in support of respondent - Kenneth Munson by Tara Borelli, counsel
Dec 30 2008Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
California Council of the Blind, California Foundation for Independent Living Center, Californias for Disability Rights, Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Educational & Defense Fund, Disability Rights Legal Center, Impact Fund, Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center in support of respondent. by Brad Seligman, counsel
Dec 30 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
The appllication of California Council of the Blind, California Foundation for Independent Living Center, Californias for Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Disability Rights Legal Center, Impact Fund, Disability Rights Legal Center, Impact Fund, and Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center for pemission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of respondent is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Dec 30 2008Request for judicial notice filed (granted case)
California Council of the Blind, California Foundation for Independent Living Center, Californias for Advocates, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education & Defense fund, Disability Rights Legal Center, Impact Fund, and Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center. by Brad Seligman, counsel
Dec 31 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
Appellant - Del Taco, Inc. answer to National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center. by Lisa A. Wegner, counsel
Dec 31 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
The application of Aids Legal Referral Panel, et al., for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of respondent is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Dec 31 2008Filed:
Appendix of Authorities cited in brief of amici curiae - Aid Legal Refferal Panel, et al., in support of respondent. by Tara Borelli, counsel with permission
Jan 5 2009Application to appear as counsel pro hac vice granted
The application of Scott A. Schoettes of Chicago, Illinois for admission pro hac vice to appear on behalf of Amici Curiae - Aids Legal Referral Panel is hereby granted. (See Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.40.)
Jan 20 2009Response to amicus curiae brief filed
to AC brief of California Council for the Blind, etal ~filed by Appellant Del Taco, Inc. ~Attorneys Lisa A. Wegner, etal
Jan 20 2009Response to amicus curiae brief filed
to AC brief of AIDS Legal Referral Panel, etal ~filed by Appellant Del Taco, Inc. ~Attorneys Lisa A. Wegner, etal
Apr 1 2009Case ordered on calendar
to be argued Wednesday, May 6, 2009, at 9:00 a.m., in San Francisco
Apr 15 2009Application filed
Request for permission to divide argument filed by Russell C. Handy, counsel for appellant Munson. Asking to share 20 minutes with amici curiae California Council of the Blind et al.
Apr 20 2009Order filed
The request of counsel for appellant Munson in the above-referenced cause to allow two counsel to argue on behalf of appellant at oral argument is hereby granted. The request of appellant to allocate to amici curiae California Council of the Blind et al. 20 minutes of appellant's 30-minute allotted time for oral argument is granted.
May 6 2009Cause argued and submitted
Jun 10 2009Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
Jun 11 2009Opinion filed
For the above reasons, we answer the Ninth Circuit's first question (" 'Must a plaintiff who seeks damages under California Civil Code section 52, claiming the denial of full and equal treatment on the basis of disability in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act . . . and the [ADA], prove "intentional discrimination" '?") in the negative. Insofar as they hold to the contrary, Gunther v. Lin, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th 223, and Coronado v. Cobblestone Village Community Rentals (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 831 are overruled. We do not answer the Ninth Circuit's second question (" 'If the answer to Question 1 is "yes," what does "intentional discrimination" mean in this context?' ") as it is premised on an affirmative answer to the first. Majority Opinion by Werdegar, J. ----- Joined by George, C. J., Kennard, Baxter, Chin, Moreno and Corrigan, JJ.
Jul 24 2009Letter sent to counsel: opinion now final

Briefs
Aug 15 2008Opening brief on the merits filed
Del Taco, Inc., petittioner
Sep 26 2008Answer brief on the merits filed
Appellant Kenneth Munson ~Attorneys Russell C. Handy, etal
Nov 6 2008Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
Appellant Del Taco, Inc. ~Attorneys Lisa A. Wegner, etal
Nov 12 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
The application of Los Burritos, Inc. for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of defendant and appeallant is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any
Nov 21 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
appellant Kenneth Munson, to ac brief Los Burritos, Inc.
Dec 12 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
The application of National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of appellant - Del Taco, Inc. is hereby granted.
Dec 30 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
The appllication of California Council of the Blind, California Foundation for Independent Living Center, Californias for Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Disability Rights Legal Center,
Dec 31 2008Response to amicus curiae brief filed
Appellant - Del Taco, Inc. answer to National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center. by Lisa A. Wegner, counsel
Dec 31 2008Amicus curiae brief filed
The application of Aids Legal Referral Panel, et al., for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of respondent is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party
Jan 20 2009Response to amicus curiae brief filed
to AC brief of California Council for the Blind, etal ~filed by Appellant Del Taco, Inc. ~Attorneys Lisa A. Wegner, etal
Jan 20 2009Response to amicus curiae brief filed
to AC brief of AIDS Legal Referral Panel, etal ~filed by Appellant Del Taco, Inc. ~Attorneys Lisa A. Wegner, etal
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
Nov 11, 2009
Annotated by Rachel Juarez

Disabled restaurant patron using wheel chair brought state court action against restaurant alleging that the restaurant discriminated against him on the basis of his disability. Plaintiff claimed that restaurant had erected architectural barriers denying him access to the parking area and restrooms in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which provides private citizens injured by violations of the ADA with a civil cause of action for damages.

Analyzing the legislative history of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Supreme Court determined that the intent of the legislature was “to strengthen California law in areas where it was weaker than the [ADA] and to retain California law when it provides more protection for individuals with disabilities than the [ADA]. With that broad remedial purpose in mind, the statute should be read to broaden, not limit, remedies available to disabled plaintiffs.

As such, the California Supreme Court held that a plaintiff who establishes a violation of the ADA is not required to prove intentional discrimination in order to obtain damages under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act. Insofar as the Unruh Civil Rights act incorporates rights under the ADA and authorizes damages for violations regardless of intent, the court declined to impose a non-statutory requirement that plaintiff prove that the discrimination was intentional.

In holding that a plaintiff seeking damages for ADA violations under the Unruh Civil Rights Act is not required to prove intentional discrimination, the California Supreme Court expressly overruled Gunther v. Lin, 144 Cal.App.4th 223, 50 Cal.Rptr.3d 317 and Coronado v. Cobblestone Village Community Rentals, 163 Cal.App.4th 831, 77 Cal.Rptr.3d 883 insofar as those cases are inconsistent with its opinion in Munson.