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Chad Blackington et al v. Quiogue Family Trust et al

April 18, 2013

CHAD BLACKINGTON ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
QUIOGUE FAMILY TRUST ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Thomas J. Whelan United States District Judge Southern District of California

ORDER GRANT IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. 34]

Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (MSJ [Doc. 34]; see also Reply [Doc. 38].) Defendant opposes. (Opp'n [Doc. 37].) The Court decides the matters on the papers submitted and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment [Doc. 34].

I. BACKGROUND

This case centers on alleged discrimination against non-Filipinos and families with children in the 17 Palm Apartment complex in National City, California (the "complex"). In 2005, Plaintiffs Chad and Sonia Blackington and their minor children moved into the complex. (Declaration of Sonia Blackington [Doc. 34-2], ¶ 2.) The Blackingtons claim that when they moved in, 50% of the tenants were Filipino. (Id.,¶ 3.) The Blackingtons are not Filipino. (Id.)

In 2008, Defendants Nonie J. Quiogue and Gilda U. Quiogue, who are Filipino, purchased the complex. (Declaration of Nonie Quiogue [Doc. 37-2], ¶ 3.) The Blackingtons claim that after the Quiogues purchased the complex, they began discriminating against non-Filipino tenants and applicants, as well as tenants with children. (See generally Compl. [Doc. 1].) In particular, the Blackingtons claim that the following rules, instituted by the Quiogues, contain unlawful discriminatory statements:

Each tenant is responsible for the action of their children and guests. This includes damages to any 17 Palm Property caused by misuse. Repair expense will be charged [sic] to the tenant ("Rule 4").

Please keep children under control at all times. It is not the responsibility of the Manager or other tenants to baby sit them ("Rule 5"). (Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. 34-1], 9-14; Pls.' Ex. 3 [Doc. 34-4], ¶¶ 4, 5.)

On July 28, 2011, the Blackingtons commenced this action, alleging negligence and violations of the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), the California Unruh Civil Rights Act ("Unruh Act"), and the Unfair Business Practices Act ("UBPA"). (Compl., ¶¶ 33-44.) On September 19, 2011, the Quiogues filed their answer. (Answer [Doc. 3].) On September 14, 2012, the Blackingtons moved for partial summary judgment with respect to, inter alia, their familial discrimination claims under the FHA, Unruh Act, and UBPA. The Quiogues oppose.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56(c) where the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party can satisfy this burden in two ways: (1)by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322-23. "Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

"The district court may limit its review to the documents submitted for the purpose of summary judgment and those parts of the record specifically referenced therein." Carmen v. S.F. Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2001). Therefore, the court is not obligated "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan v. Allen, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Richards v. Combined Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1995)). If the moving party fails to discharge this initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

If the moving party meets this initial burden, the nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment merely by demonstrating "that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252) ("The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position is not sufficient."). Rather, the nonmoving party must "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by 'the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).

When making this determination, the court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge, [when] he [or she] is ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

Rule 56(d) provides for partial summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) ("[T]he court . . . shall if practicable ascertain what material facts exist without substantial controversy and what material facts are actually and in good faith controverted."). Under Rule 56(d), the court may grant summary judgment on less than the non-moving party's whole claim. Zapata Hermanos Sucesores, S.A. v. Hearthside Baking Co., Inc., 313 F.3d 385, 391 (7th Cir. 2002) (Posner, J.). Partial summary judgment is a mechanism through which the Court deems certain issues established before trial. Lies v. Farrell Lines, Inc., 641 F.2d 765, 769 n.3 (9th Cir. 1981) (quoting 6 Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 56.20 (3.-2) (2d ed. 1976)). "The procedure was intended to avoid a useless trial of facts and issues over which there was really never any controversy and which would tend to confuse and complicate a lawsuit." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Defendants' Argument That Plaintiffs' Familial Discrimination Claims Are Improper is Incorrect.

As a preliminary matter, the Quiogues contend that the Blackingtons' motion for partial summary judgment with respect to their familial discrimination claims is improper because it is not based upon factual allegations in the complaint. (Opp'n 2.)

Specifically, the Quiogues argue that because the complaint contains no factual allegations of discrimination based on familial status, they have not been given "fair notice" of the claims asserted. (Id.) The Blackington's respond that they have alleged facts regarding familial discrimination. (Reply, 1.) However, the Complaint directly references the alleged discriminatory rules. (Compl. ¶ 16.) Additionally, the Complaint repeatedly refers to the Quiogues' alleged discrimination against families with children. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 12, 20, 32, 34, 36, 38, 43.) Thus, it should have been clear to the Quiogues that ...


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