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Moria Rogers v. Leslie C. Seibert

February 22, 2012

MORIA ROGERS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
LESLIE C. SEIBERT, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 48)

Plaintiff Moria Rogers moves for summary judgment or summary adjudication of twelve different issues. Having reviewed the motion, the supporting and opposing arguments, the evidence submitted, and applicable law, the Court denies the motion.

I. Undisputed Facts

At all relevant times, the record owner of Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park was Defendant Seibert Family Trust 1995. Defendant Leslie Seibert and his former wife, Marilyn J. Seibert are the trustees.*fn1 In an unspecified prior action, Defendant Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park was named as the plaintiff.

Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park did not develop procedures for routinely determining the occupancy of each unit, including identifying whether at least one occupant was more than fifty-five years old, within 180 days of the implementation of 20 C.F.R. § 100.307. As of April 6, 2010, defendant Leslie Seibert testified in his deposition that defendants did not have a policy about renting only to tenants who were age 55 or older. Defendants knowingly approved several applicants for tenancy at Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park who were less than fifty-five years old.

The application to rent that Plaintiff signed did not limit residency at Sierra Hide-Away to tenants who were fifty-five years old or older. None of the 27 rules enumerated in Plaintiff's rental agreement and the general rules limited residency at Sierra Hide-Away to tenants who were fifty-five years old or older.

On April 18, 2006, Defendants' lawyer, Steven Mortimer, sent Plaintiff's attorney, Kimberly Mayhew, a letter stating "My client is ready, willing, and able to cooperate in the sale of the mobile home. However, since the park is a senior citizen park, any purchaser will have to be 55 years old and must have reasonable credit."

On December 20, 2007, Defendant Leslie Seibert wrote to Plaintiff: "Also because you are under the age of 55 years and because this is an adult park 55 years and older and because I have waived your age requirement any live in companion will have to be 55 years or older your mother fits into that just fine." On January 5, 2008, Defendant wrote to Plaintiff: "As you are fully aware this is an adult park age 55 years and older, no children. You are the only exception to that rule at this time."

On April 20, 2008, Defendant Leslie Seibert sent a letter to tenants in which he stated: "As each of you know Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park and Adult Park age 55 years and older with the pr[o]vision no children is governed by California Civil Code Provisions Mobilehome Residency Law and you were provided with a current copy of these laws before you moved in and each year by February 1st I provide you a current new copy of the changes that are put out by Housing Community Development."

In April 2009 Defendant sent all tenants a letter stating, "A non-senior in this park may not share the home with a non-senior under section 798.34 & section 798.76." On May 27, 2009, Defendant wrote to Plaintiff, "I have reviewed what you referred to as hazards. I do not see the hazards you mention especially in an Adult Only age 55 years and older Mobile Home Park with no children."

In a letter to tenants dated July 18, 2009, Defendant stated, "This is an adult park age 55 years and older, no children and this is why a number of you selected this park." On July 31, 2009, Defendant wrote to tenant Marlaine Neal, "At your convenience please supply me with confirmation of your date of birth. This is necessary because we are a senior citizen park, or adult park, which ever people wish to call us."

On August 20, 2009, defendants sent a letter to all tenants at Sierra Hide-Away informing them that Defendants had installed a sign declaring "Adult Park, 55 Plus, No Children." Defendant wrote, "We have always presented to all applicants our status as age 55 years and older Senior Citizen Park which also means no children."

On September 18, 2009, Defendant Leslie Seibert sent a letter to Moria Rogers stating You moved your child into this park on August 29, 2009. Raising your child here is a violation of all the following 798.34 & 798.76 & you[r] signed Application to Rent and the parks status as a Senior Citizen park and your child is clearly not age 55 years or older. This letter is your formal notice of violation. You have seven days to correct your violations. If these have not been corrected legal action will be initiated to protect the rights of all tenants, and the park ownership, and the park rules and the parks Senior Citizen status.

On September 25, 2009, Plaintiff sent Defendants a letter requesting that her newborn daughter be permitted to reside with her at Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park.

On October 5, 2009, Defendant wrote to tenants, "This parks status is a senior citizen park. I fully intend to defend and preserve that status and the laws governing that status."

On October 9, 2009, Defendant Leslie Seibert sent a letter to Plaintiff in which he stated, "On October 6, 2009 you came back into the park and paraded around in the park with your child. This is a violation of our agreements Application to Rent and section 798.34 and 798.76 of the California Civil Code Provisions Mobilehome Residency Laws.

On October 21, 2009, Defendant wrote to the tenants, "As I leave the park and my duties as manager I only know of one issue that needs to be dealt with and that is the protecting and preserving of our status as a Senior Citizen Park. I will work on that issue. I want to make it perfectly clear that this issue is strictly a business issue. We are a senior citizen park and either the law will uphold our senior citizen status, or it won't." On October 25, 2009, Defendant sent a letter in which he stated, "We are a senior citizen park which allows that we must have 80% senior citizen tenants and the rest can be non-seniors at the prerogative of the manager with the concurrence of the owner and we are not admitting any other non-seniors under that prerogative."

On October 29, 2009, Plaintiff sent a letter to Mark Seibert requesting that her newborn daughter be permitted to reside with her at Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park. On November 15, 2009, Mark Seibert responded, "Sierra Hide-Away is a senior citizen park, and all parties involved in ownership and management for the park wish it to remain as such. This is not a personal matter, it is simply business. So to be clear, it is the park's intent to remain a senior citizen park with no children living in the park."

On December 10, 2009, Defendant Leslie Seibert wrote to Plaintiff, "You also have known from the day you moved in that the park was a senior citizen park and that the management had made a decision long before you moved in that we would not have any children living in the park."

On December 21, 2009, Defendant wrote to tenants, "[W]e have always been a senior citizen park and that was controlled by interview when people approached wanting to know about tenancy."

On May 16, 2010, Defendant wrote to tenants, "I am aware of the rumor going around the park that we are not a senior citizen park. If you are concerned about this rumor feel free to call me and I will be happy to discuss this rumor with you." On June 1, 2010, Defendant wrote,"We are standing firmly on our findings and do so declare Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park is [o]perating as a senior citizen park age 55 years and older and that we are in compliance with both H.C.D. and HOPA."

II. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment should be granted "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." F.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Fortyune v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc., 364 F.3d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 2004). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of establishing the basis of its motion and of identifying the portions of the declarations, pleadings, and discovery that demonstrate absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit under applicable law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); Thrifty Oil Co. v. Bank of America Nat'l Trust & Savings Ass'n, 322 F.3d 1039, 1046 (9th Cir. 2003). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006).

When the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. When the non-moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant may prevail by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party's claim or merely by pointing out that no evidence supports an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. See Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984; Nissan Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1105-06 (9th Cir. 2000). If a moving party fails to carry its burden of production, then "the non-moving party has no obligation to produce anything, even if the non-moving party would have the ultimate burden of persuasion." Nissan Fire & Marine, 210 F.3d at 1102-03. If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. Id. at1103. The opposing party cannot "'rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading' but must instead produce evidence that 'sets forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Estate of Tucker v. Interscope Records, 515 F.3d 1019, 1030 (9th Cir.) (quoting F.R.Civ.P. 56(e)), cert. denied, 129 S.Ct. 174 (2008).

The evidence of the opposing party must be believed, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Stegall v. Citadel Broadcasting Co., 350 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2003). Nonetheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Sanders v. City of Fresno, 551 F.Supp.2d 1149, 1163 (E.D.Cal. 2008), affirmed, 340 Fed.Appx. 377 (9th Cir. 2009); UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Sinnott, 300 F.Supp.2d 993, 997 (E.D.Cal. 2004). "A genuine issue of material fact does not spring into being simply because a litigant claims that one exists or promises to produce admissible evidence at trial." del Carmen Guadelupe v. Negron Agosto, 299 F.3d 15, 23 (1st Cir. 2002). A court has the discretion in appropriate circumstances to consider materials that are not properly brought to its attention, even though a court is not required to examine the entire file for evidence establishing a genuine issue of material fact when the opposing party has not set forth the evidence with adequate references. See Southern California Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School District, 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001). If the nonmoving party fails to produce evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. See Nissan Fire & Marine, 210 F.3d at 1103.

III. Collateral Estoppel

Plaintiff requests this Court to summarily adjudicate that Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park was not housing for older persons at any time relevant to her claims in this case. She argues that Defendants are collaterally estopped from arguing otherwise, based on the determination in Sierra Hide-Away Mobile Home Park v. Blackstock, (Madera County Sup. Ct. 2010) (No. MCV 051322). Defendants disagree, pointing out that, as stated in the decision itself, the Blackstock decision was not dispositive on that issue.

A. Blackstock Eviction

On April 1, 2010, Sierra Hide A Way Mobile Home Park (sic) filed an unlawful detainer complaint for possession of mobile home park lot 7 against Rebecca C. Blackstock. In the Statement of Decision and Order Denying Motion for Non-suit (Plaintiff's Ex. 122), issued after trial, ...


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