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Green v. Mercy Housing, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 2, 2020

RODNEY GREEN, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
MERCY HOUSING, INC., a Nebraska corporation; MERCY HOUSING MANAGEMENT GROUP, INC., a Nebraska corporation d/b/a East Leland Court; MERCY HOUSING CALIFORNIA XXXVIII, a California limited partnership; and DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER RE SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         In this disability-discrimination action, defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons below, the motion is Granted.

         STATEMENT

         The essence of this case is that the landlord evicted plaintiff for failure to pay rent, not on account of his race. Plaintiff has also failed to show the landlord neglected to accommodate his disability. Beginning in December 2016, plaintiff Rodney Green, Sr., an African American man, rented a unit at East Leland Court Apartments owned and operated by defendants Mercy Housing, Inc., Mercy Housing Management Group, Inc., and Mercy Housing California XXXVIII. Plaintiff depended on a walking cane for mobility and also needed an in-home care giver (Compl. ¶¶ 6-11).

         When plaintiff entered into his lease agreement, defendants told him he would receive accessible parking. When he moved in, however, defendants had already leased the parking spaces closest to plaintiff's unit to a daycare center while he received a space a further from his unit. The building property manager also accused plaintiff's son - who visited plaintiff to provide in-home health care - of engaging in criminal activity and living in plaintiff's unit in violation of plaintiff's rental agreement (id. ¶¶ 11-14).

         Following these incidents, defendants served plaintiff with a sixty-day notice to terminate his tenancy. Defendants agreed to rescind the notice on the condition that plaintiff not allow his son to come to the apartment. Plaintiff agreed to those terms. Plaintiff later filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Housing in December 2017 (id. ¶ 14). Beginning June 2018, plaintiff failed to pay rent on time, and in October 2018, the Contra Costa Superior Court entered judgment in favor of Mercy Housing and against the Greens, ordering the Greens to return possession of the premises to Mercy Housing (Dkt. No. 76, Ex. E).

         Plaintiff filed the complaint in the instant action in August 2018. The complaint currently asserts claims under: (1) California's Disabled Person's Act; (2) California's Unruh Civil Rights Act; (3) the Fair Housing Act; (4) California's Fair Employment and Housing Act; (5) harassment and retaliation under California Government Code § 12955; (6) unlawful interference under California Government Code § 12955.7; and (7) unfair competition under the California Business & Professions Code § 17200 (Dkt. No. 1, 39).

         Following various discovery disputes in which the Court ultimately appointed a special master to oversee depositions, defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment as to all of plaintiff's claims. This order follows full briefing and oral argument.

         ANALYSIS

         Under Rule 56(a), a movant is entitled to summary judgment if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” A fact is material when it affects the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Although the moving party bears “the initial burden of production and the ultimate burden of persuasion” on summary judgment, Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000), once it has discharged that burden, the nonmovant must “go beyond the pleadings and . . . designate specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). The nonmoving party's evidence must be sufficient such that the record, taken as a whole, could support a rational trier of fact in finding for the nonmoving party on that issue. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). If conflicting inferences may be drawn from the facts, the case must go to the jury.” LaLonde v. Cnty. Of Riverside, 204 F.3d 947, 959 (9th Cir. 2000).

         1. Reasonable Accommodation.

         The Fair Housing Act, the California Disabled Persons Act, the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act all prohibit discrimination against those with disabilities by failing to provide them with reasonable or equal accommodations. Such discrimination occurs if plaintiff (1) suffers from a disability, (2) defendant knew or reasonably should have known of plaintiff's disability; (3) accommodation of the disability may be necessary to afford plaintiff an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his dwelling; and (4) defendant refused to make such accommodation. McGary v. City of Portland, 386 F.3d 1259, 1262 (9th Cir. 2004).

         Plaintiff alleges defendants refused to make three reasonable accommodations: (1) a parking space near his unit and outside the gate; (2) a walkway clear of overhanging trees; and (3) in-home care. There is no factual dispute that plaintiff meets the first three elements. Rather, the question is whether plaintiff requested these accommodations and defendants refused to make them.

         A. Parking Space.

         Plaintiffs first allege that defendants discriminated against him by failing to providing him with certain parking spaces. Plaintiff moved into East Leland Court Apartments in December 2016. At that point, he was provided assigned access to at least two non-disabled parking spaces (spaces 141 and 31) and unassigned access to two handicapped parking spaces. These spaces were all behind a gate and plaintiff needed to exit through that gate to reach his apartment unit. Plaintiff then requested a space closer to his unit and was given one (space 136), although defendants indicate plaintiff had been assigned this space from the start. This space was behind the gate as well. There were, however, other parking spaces closer to his unit that were outside the gate, and plaintiff thus began to park there instead. ...


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