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United States v. Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

May 10, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TRUMBULL METROPOLITAN HOUSING AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [RESOLVING ECF NOS. 56, 57]

          Benita Y. Pearson, United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Defendants Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority (“TMHA”), Russell Osman, and Valerie Simeon's partial Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 56. Defendants move for summary judgment as to: (1) Count Three, which alleges that, Defendant TMHA negligently hires and trains its employees; (2) Counts Four and Five, which allege that, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Defendants deprived Plaintiffs of their right to federally subsidized housing by failing to notify them of an opportunity to request an informal hearing; (3) Count Nine, which alleges that, pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604, Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs by failing to reasonably accommodate their disabilities; and, (4) Counts Fourteen and Fifteen, intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, of the Intervening Complaint. Id. Plaintiffs have responded in opposition. ECF No. 61. Defendants replied. ECF No. 63.

         For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' partial Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 56) is granted.

         I. Background

         The United States brought a single cause of action on behalf of Plaintiffs alleging that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604 (“the Fair Housing Act” or “FHA”) by engaging in unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability in the rental of housing. ECF No. 1. The Court granted the Motion to Intervene (ECF No. 3) filed by Plaintiffs JG, SP, and their two minor children AP and MH. ECF No. 14. As a result, Plaintiffs filed an Intervening Complaint (ECF No. 16), alleging fifteen claims against Defendants.[1] ECF No. 56 at PageID#: 561. Plaintiffs JG, SP, and their two minor children are residents of Trumbull County, Ohio who sought subsidized housing via services offered by Defendants. Id. at PageID#: 564. In applying for Defendants' housing voucher program, Plaintiffs indicated that they have various illnesses that make them eligible for housing accommodations-JG has been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease and Type-1 Diabetes, and one of their children has a learning disability. Id. at PageID#: 564-65; ECF No. 56-2 at PageID#: 806, 809.

         Defendant TMHA is a public housing authority of the State of Ohio authorized to administer low-income housing programs and to administer federal Section 8 housing programs in Trumbull County. ECF No. 56 at PageID#: 564. Defendant Osman works for TMHA as its Assistant Director of TMHA, and Defendant Simeon is employed as its Voucher Program Coordinator. Id.

         A. 2014

         In February 2014, Plaintiffs applied for, and were issued, a voucher for a two-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 565. Plaintiffs later requested and were granted a voucher that would permit them to rent a house with up to four bedrooms. Id. at PageID#: 565-66. Using this voucher, Plaintiffs selected a three-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 566. Defendants conducted an inspection of the three-bedroom house to ensure that it complied with HUD's health and safety requirements. Id. at PageID#: 566-67. Pursuant to Defendant TMHA's written policy, Chapter 10(B), “[o]nce the unit has had an initial inspection the family must take this unit unless the landlord fails to correct the items noted on the inspection list.” Id. at PageID#: 569.

         In September 2014, Plaintiffs sent Defendants a notification and request letter concerning the suitability of the three-bedroom house for Plaintiff JG's disability-related needs. Id. at PageID#: 569; ECF No. 56-11 at PageID#: 876. In the letter, Plaintiffs notified Defendants that the three-bedroom house was not suitable for Plaintiff JG, because he required a separate room for his at-home dialysis treatment. ECF No. 56-11 at PageID#: 876. During that same time, Plaintiffs requested Defendants issue them new paperwork permitting the rental of a four-bedroom home that would be more suitable for Plaintiff JG and AP's disability-related needs. ECF No. 56 at PageID#: 568-69. Defendants denied Plaintiffs' request on grounds that Plaintiffs had already selected the three-bedroom house, the house had been inspected, and Defendants' policy required Plaintiffs to lease the house because the inspection had been completed and approved. Id. Plaintiffs refused to sign the lease for the three-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 569. As a result, on October 3, 2014, Defendants terminated Plaintiffs' housing voucher. Id.; ECF No. 61 at PageID#: 1776.

         On December 21, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a housing discrimination complaint with HUD, claiming that Defendants denied Plaintiffs a reasonable accommodation of a four-bedroom house voucher. ECF No. 61 at PageID#: 1777.

         B. 2015

         On February 19, 2015, Plaintiffs reapplied to participate in the housing voucher program. ECF No. 56 at PageID#: 569. Defendants approved Plaintiffs' application, placed them on a waiting list; and, soon after, issued Plaintiffs a voucher for a two-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 569-70. Plaintiffs requested a voucher increase for a three-bedroom house. Id. at PageID#: 570. In determining whether a three-bedroom house was necessary, Defendant Simeon contacted Plaintiff JG's dialysis clinic to inquire whether a separate bedroom was necessary. Id. at PageID#: 264-65. Defendant Simeon sent several authorization forms-a Verification of Need Form (medical authorization) and a signature page from a HUD-9886 Form (financial authorization) previously signed by Plaintiff JG-to the dialysis clinic. ECF No. 61 at PageID#: 1778.

         On September 1, 2015, Plaintiffs elected to use their voucher to rent a three-bedroom house of their choosing, which Defendants inspected and approved. ECF No. 56 at PageID:# 570.

         C. Now

         Defendants motion for summary judgment on Counts Three, Four, Five, Nine, Fourteen, and Fifteen of Plaintiffs' Intervening Complaint (ECF No. 56) is ripe for ruling. See ECF No. 61 (Plaintiffs' opposition); ECF No. 63 (Defendants' reply).

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriately granted when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Johnson v. Karnes, 398 F.3d 868, 873 (6th Cir. 2005). The moving party is not required to file affidavits or other similar materials negating a claim on which its opponent bears the burden of proof, so long as the movant relies upon the absence of the essential element in the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party must “show that the non-moving party has failed to establish an essential element of his case upon which he would bear the ultimate burden of proof at trial.” Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Trustees., 980 F.2d 399, 403 (6th Cir. 1992).

         Once the movant makes a properly supported motion, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate the existence of genuine dispute. An opposing party may not simply rely on its pleadings. Rather, it must “produce evidence that results in a conflict of material fact to be resolved by a jury.” Cox v. Ky. Dep't. of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 150 (6th Cir. 1995). The non-moving party must, to defeat the motion, “show that there is doubt as to the material facts and that the record, taken as a whole, does not lead to a judgment for the movant.” Guarino, 980 F.2d at 403. In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party when deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970).

         The United States Supreme Court, in deciding Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242 (1986), stated that in order for a motion for summary judgment to be granted, there must be no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 248. The existence of some mere factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). A fact is “material” only if its resolution will affect the outcome of the lawsuit. In determining whether a factual issue is “genuine, ” the court must decide whether the evidence is such that reasonable jurors could find that the non-moving party is entitled to a verdict. Id. Summary judgment “will not lie . . . if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. To withstand summary judgment, the non-movant must show sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue ...


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