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Holland v. Related Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 11, 2016

PETER HOLLAND, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE RELATED COMPANIES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, AND DEFERRING IN PART MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND ORDERING SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEFING Re: Dkt. No. 98

          JEFFREY S. WHITE United States District Judg

         Now before the Court for consideration is the motion for partial summary judgment filed by Defendants, Related Management Company L.P. (“RMC”) and Third and Mission Associates LLC (“TMA”) (collectively “Defendants”) on Plaintiffs’ third claim for relief and on the issue of punitive damages.[1] The Court has considered the parties’ papers, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, and it finds the motion suitable for disposition without oral argument.[2] See N.D. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). The Court VACATES the hearing schedule for July 22, 2016, and it HEREBY GRANTS, IN PART, Defendants’ motion. The Court DEFERS ruling on the issue of whether Plaintiffs are entitled to punitive damages.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted. In November 2008, Plaintiffs, Peter Holland (“Mr. Holland”) and Kristin Holland (“Mrs. Holland”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) leased unit 7C in The Paramount apartment complex (“The Paramount”). In December 2014, Plaintiffs renewed their lease for a period of one year. (See First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), ¶¶ 6, 9-10, 12; RMC Amended Answer to FAC (“RMC Answer”) ¶¶ 1, 6, 9-10, 12; TMA Amended Answer to FAC (“TMA Answer”) ¶¶ 1, 6, 9-10, 12; Declaration of Deborah Lunn in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (“Lunn Decl.”) ¶ 3.) The Paramount is a residential apartment complex that is owned by TMA and is operated by RMC. (FAC ¶¶ 6-7; RMC Answer ¶¶ 6-7; TMA Answer ¶¶ 6-7; Declaration of Warren Loy in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, ¶ 2; Lunn Decl., ¶ 2.)

         In January 2015, Defendants sent a notice to The Paramount’s residents that the building’s amenities space, which was located on the floor below Plaintiffs’ apartment, would be renovated. That project commenced in March 2015. (RMC Answer ¶¶ 13, 15; TMA Answer ¶¶ 13, 15; Declaration of Connie Cortese in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (“Cortese Decl.”), ¶ 2; Lunn Decl., ¶ 5.) Mr. Holland suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”). After the renovation began, Mr. Holland raised complaints to Ms. Cortese, Jessie Liete, and Tanya Noeggerath Brown about noise from the construction. He also advised them that the noise was impacting his PTSD. (See Lunn Decl., ¶¶ 6, 8 Exs. A-B; Declaration of Joanne Childress in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, ¶¶ 1-2, Exs. A-B; Cortese Decl., ¶ 3, Ex. A; Declaration of Celia McGuinness in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. A (Deposition of Tanya Brown at 84:2-14; McGuinness Decl., Exs. 5-6).) Plaintiffs asked for an accommodation because of the construction noise. The parties engaged in discussions regarding Plaintiffs’ request but were unable to reach an agreement.

         On July 10, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their complaint and alleged that Defendants’ actions violated: (1) the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act, 42 U.S.C. sections 3601, et seq. (the “FHAA Claim”); (2) California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code sections 12926, et seq. (the “FEHA Claim”); (3) California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code sections 51, et seq. (the “Unruh Act Claim”); and (4) California’s Disabled Persons Act, Civil Code sections 54, et seq. (the “CDPA Claim”).

         Plaintiffs also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction with their complaint. (Docket No. 4.) On July 23, 2015, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and it ordered Defendants to “make a reasonable accommodation to Plaintiffs by moving them to an upper apartment in their building, free of construction noise, for the duration of their lease at their current rental rate, ” and it ordered Defendants to pay “the reasonable costs of such relocation.”[3](Docket No. 31, Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 5:25-6:2.) Defendants moved Plaintiffs in compliance with the Court’s Order, and Plaintiffs moved out of The Paramount in December 2015. (Lunn Decl., ¶ 3.)

         The Court shall address additional facts as necessary in the analysis.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standards Applicable to Motions for Summary Judgment.

         A principal purpose of the summary judgment procedure is to identify and dispose of factually unsupported claims. Celotex Corp. v. Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Summary judgment, or partial summary judgment, is proper “if the movant shows 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). “In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations, and is required to draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue of fact is “genuine” only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact finder to find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). A fact is “material” if it may affect the outcome of the case. Id. at 248. If the party moving for summary judgment does not have the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, that party must produce evidence which either negates an essential element of the non-moving party’s claims or that party must show that the non-moving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000).

         Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the non-moving party must “identify with reasonable particularity the evidence that precludes summary judgment.” Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also Fed. R. Civ. 56(e). In addition, the party seeking to establish a genuine issue of material fact must take care adequately to point a court to the evidence precluding summary judgment. A court is “‘not required to comb the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment.’” Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Forsberg v. Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Co., 840 F.2d 1409, ...


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