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Alta Ski Resort's motion to dismiss Wasatch Equality lawsuit

Alta Ski Resort's motion to dismiss Wasatch Equality lawsuit

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Published by Ben Winslow
A motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed by the group Wasatch Equality against Alta Ski Resort and the U.S. Forest Service. Wasatch Equality is demanding that Alta allow snowboarders. They claim the resort's ban violates their Fourteenth Amendment Constitutional rights.
A motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed by the group Wasatch Equality against Alta Ski Resort and the U.S. Forest Service. Wasatch Equality is demanding that Alta allow snowboarders. They claim the resort's ban violates their Fourteenth Amendment Constitutional rights.

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Published by: Ben Winslow on Mar 24, 2014
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03/25/2014

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FREDERICK R. THALER (7002) ROBERT O. RICE (6639)
RAY QUINNEY & NEBEKER P.C.
36 South State Street, Suite 1400 Post Office Box 45385 Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0385 Phone: (801) 532-1500 Facsimile: (801) 532-7543 rthaler@rqn.com rrice@rqn.com 
 Attorneys for Defendant Alta Ski Lifts Company
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH, CENTRAL DIVISION WASATCH EQUALITY, a Utah Nonprofit Corporation; RICK ALDEN, an individual; DREW HICKEN, an individual; BJORN LEINES, an individual; and RICHARD VARGA, an individual, Plaintiffs, v. ALTA SKI LIFTS COMPANY, a Utah Corporation d/b/a ALTA SKI AREA; THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture; and DAVID WHITTEKIEND, in his official capacity as Forest Service Supervisor in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Defendants.
MOTION TO DISMISS
Case No. 2:14-cv-00026 PMW Judge Paul M. Warner
Case 2:14-cv-00026-PMW Document 21 Filed 03/21/14 Page 1 of 30
 
 
2
RELIEF SOUGHT AND GROUNDS FOR MOTION
Defendant Alta Ski Lifts Company, d/b/a Alta Ski Area (“Alta”), seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs’ Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs assert that Alta’s equipment requirement precluding individuals from using various kinds of equipment, including snowboards, at its resort constitutes a violation of the Plaintiffs’ rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This claim is insufficient as a matter of law, and must be dismissed for at least the following reasons. First, Plaintiffs, who characterize themselves as a class “of people . . . who stand sideways on a single snowboard,” lack standing to assert a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. To meet their burden of establishing standing, Plaintiffs must show that their complaint falls within the “zone of interest” emanating from the Fourteenth Amendment. It demeans the Constitution itself to suggest that the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War, includes in its zone of protection those who engage in a  particularized winter sport. Because Plaintiffs cannot show standing, the Court should grant Alta’s motion.  Nor is there any Forest Service final agency action on Alta’s business decision regarding the use of snowboards. That decision was made by Alta, and not by the Forest Service. In the absence of final agency action, the Court should not review Plaintiffs’ claim against the Forest Service under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). The Court should also dismiss Plaintiffs’ claim because they cannot show the necessary “state action” required to establish a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Alta is a private company that makes many decisions about the manner in which it runs its business, one of which happens to be the equipment requirement Plaintiffs challenge. The allegations regarding the Forest Service’s relationship with Alta do not satisfy any of the four tests for establishing state action. Hence, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to show state action. Under such
Case 2:14-cv-00026-PMW Document 21 Filed 03/21/14 Page 2 of 30
 
 
3 circumstances, this Court need not analyze the underlying constitutional claims further and thus, should grant Alta’s motion. Finally, the Court should grant Alta’s motion because Plaintiffs cannot overcome the  presumption that Alta’s equipment requirement is presumed valid under the controlling “rational  basis” test. In fact, the rational basis for Defendants’ conduct is supplied by Plaintiffs’ themselves in their complaint, in which they allege that the equipment requirement is driven by  business, safety, customer demographic and terrain concerns. Each of these interests supplies a rational basis that Plaintiffs cannot overcome. For all of these reasons, the Court should grant Alta’s motion and dismiss with prejudice all of Plaintiffs’ claims.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
1
 1.
 
Plaintiffs are a “group of people . . . who stand sideways on a single ‘snowboard.’” (Compl. 5.) 2.
 
The Forest Service is an agency of the federal government. David Whittekiend is a Forest Service supervisor. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) 3.
 
Alta is a privately owned and operated Utah corporation that operates an all season resort partially on Forest Service land near Salt Lake City, Utah. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 43, 47.)
 
4.
 
Alta operates its resort under a Forest Service Ski Area Term Special Use Permit (“Permit”) that the Forest Service issued on October 25, 2002. (Compl. ¶ 47; see also Permit, attached as Exhibit A.)
 2
 5.
 
Alta’s Winter Site Operation Plan (“Plan”) states that “[t]o promote safety of employees and persons on the mountain and to avoid interference with operations, uphill and
1
 The following facts are those as alleged by Plaintiffs in their Complaint filed in this action. Alta sets forth these allegations only for the purposes of this Motion.
2
 In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “‘the district court may consider documents referred to in the complaint if the documents are central to the plaintiff’s claim and the parties do not dispute the documents’ authenticity.’” Alvarado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C., 493 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2007).
Case 2:14-cv-00026-PMW Document 21 Filed 03/21/14 Page 3 of 30

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