The opinion of the court was delivered by: Whyte, District Judge.
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY
The motions of defendants Charities Housing Development Corp.
("CHD"), Sherene Bigelow and Anne Stahr (collectively
"defendants") to dismiss and, in the alternative, for summary
judgment, were heard by the court on June 16, 2000. The court has
read the moving and responding papers and heard the argument of
counsel. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies the
Plaintiff Brenda Janush ("plaintiff") suffers from a severe
mental health disability. Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, Dr.
David Kilgore, has testified that plaintiff's pets, two birds and
two cats, lessen the effects of this disability by providing her
with companionship and are necessary to her mental health.
On December 6, 1999, plaintiff signed a rental agreement for an
apartment in Pensione Esperanza, a low-income apartment building
run by CHD, a non-profit corporation affiliated with Catholic
Charities of Santa Clara County. Paragraph 23 of the rental
agreement contains a "no pets" clause. Plaintiff did not alert
CHD to the presence of her animals prior to moving into the
apartment on January 2, 2000. On January 10, 2000, a maintenance
worker discovered plaintiff's animals in the apartment.
Discussions ensued between plaintiff and defendants over whether
plaintiff would be allowed to keep the animals in the apartment
and under what conditions. The parties disagree as to what offers
and counter-offers were made. Essentially, plaintiff alleges that
defendants harassed her and refused to offer any reasonable
accommodation. Defendants allege that they were willing to
accommodate plaintiff's requests, at least in part, but plaintiff
refused to provide requested documentation such as proof that the
animals had been vaccinated. On February 7, 2000, defendants
filed eviction proceedings against plaintiff. On March 26, 2000,
plaintiff moved out of Pensione Esperanza.
Plaintiff filed suit on March 10, 2000, principally alleging
discrimination based on defendants' refusal to reasonably
accommodate plaintiff's disability as required by the Fair
Housing Act, as well as other federal and state law causes of
action. Defendants now move to dismiss, or in the alternative,
for summary judgment.
A court may dismiss a complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) for either (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory, or (2)
the pleading of insufficient facts under a cognizable legal
theory. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530,
533-34 (9th Cir. 1984). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the
court must assume that plaintiff's allegations are true, must
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, and must resolve any doubt in plaintiff's favor.
United States v. City of Redwood City, 640 F.2d 963, 966 (9th
Summary judgment is proper if the record indicates there is no
genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c). "[T]here is
no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring
the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "[A]t the summary judgment
stage the judge's function is not . . . to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there
is a genuine issue for trial." Id. Rule 56 "mandates the entry
of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon
motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct.
2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
To establish a prima facie case of housing discrimination based
on an alleged "refusal to make reasonable accommodations in
rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations
may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use
and enjoy a dwelling[,]" 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3), a plaintiff must
show that: (1) she suffers from a handicap as defined in
42 U.S.C. § 3602(h); (2) defendant knew of the handicap or should
reasonably be expected to know of it; (3) accommodation of the
handicap "may be necessary" to afford plaintiff an equal
opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling; and (4) defendants
refused to make such accommodation. See U.S. v. California
Mobile Home Park Management Co., 107 F.3d 1374, 1380 (9th Cir.
Defendants argue that the core allegation in each of
plaintiff's claims is that she was entitled to keep her animals
as a reasonable accommodation. (Mot. at 6 n. 2.) Notwithstanding
the brevity of defendants' moving papers (three pages of legal
argument) and the frankness of their position ("[t]his issue is
important to defendants because, given the number of low-income
residents they serve, there is a very real risk that the no-pet
policy at Pensione Esperanza will be overrun with demands for
`accommodations' by persons who claim to need the companionship
of a variety of animals."), (mot. at 7:8-11), defendants have
failed to point out which elements of which causes of actions
plaintiff has failed to adequately plead. Nor have defendants
cited a single case in their moving papers.