Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEVADA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
     Plaintiff,

v.

INLAND EMPIRE BUILDERS, INC.;
THE HEERS FAMILY TRUST;
CHARLES M. HEERS;
MARILYN C. HEERS; ERIC MILLER;
ECHO BAY CONDOMINIUM OWNERS
ASSOCIATION; and
GEORGE F. TIBSHERANY,
     Defendants.

_____________________________________

PLAINTIFF UNITED STATES' FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT
JURY DEMAND

The United States of America alleges:

  1. This action is brought to enforce the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 ("Fair Housing Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619.

    Jurisdiction And Venue

  2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(b).
  3. Venue is proper in that the claims alleged herein arose in Clark County, Nevada.

    Parties

  4. Defendant Inland Empire Builders, Inc. is a Nevada corporation whose principal place of business is located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Defendant Inland Empire Builders, Inc. is responsible for the design, development, construction, and sale or rental of residential dwellings at Echo Bay Condominiums, Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments, and Mesa Verde Apartments.
  5. Defendant The Heers Family Trust is a trust with its principal place of business in Encinitas, California. Defendant The Heers Family Trust is responsible for the design, development, construction, and sale or rental of residential dwellings at Echo Bay Condominiums.
  6. Defendant Charles M. Heers is the president of Inland Empire Builders, Inc. and a trustee of The Heers Family Trust. Defendant Charles M. Heers is responsible for the design, development, construction, and sale or rental of residential dwellings at Echo Bay Condominiums, Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments, and Mesa Verde Apartments.
  7. Defendant Marilyn C. Heers is the treasurer and secretary of Inland Empire Builders, Inc. and a trustee of The Heers Family Trust. Defendant Marilyn C. Heers is responsible for the design, development, construction, and sale or rental of residential dwellings at Echo Bay Condominiums, Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments, and Mesa Verde Apartments.
  8. Defendant Eric Miller, AIA, an architect employed by Inland Empire Builders, Inc., is responsible for the design of Echo Bay Condominiums, Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments, and Mesa Verde Apartments.
  9. Defendant Echo Bay Condominium Owners Association took ownership of Echo Bay Condominium's common use and public use areas, and all liability attached thereto, in or about June 1995.
  10. Defendant George F. Tibsherany, an architect employed by Inland Empire Builders, Inc., is partly responsible for the design of Aviata Apartments.

    Factual And Legal Background

  11. Echo Bay Condominiums is a residential dwelling complex located at 2725 South Nellis Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada. Echo Bay Condominiums includes 51 two-story buildings without elevators, each with eight dwelling units, four of which are located on the ground floor. Echo Bay Condominiums has 204 ground-floor units. All of the dwelling units at Echo Bay Condominiums were designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991.
  12. Aviata Apartments is a residential dwelling complex located at 2121 East Warm Springs Road in Paradise Town, a suburb of Las Vegas, Nevada. Aviata Apartments includes approximately 28 buildings without elevators, each with 16 dwelling units, eight of which are located on the ground floor. Aviata Apartments has 228 ground-floor units. All of the dwelling units at Aviata Apartments were designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991.
  13. Eastgate Apartments is a residential dwelling complex located at 3055 South Nellis Boulevard in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eastgate Apartments includes 39 two-story buildings without elevators, each with eight apartment units, four of which are located on the ground floor. Eastgate Apartments has 156 ground-floor units. All of the dwelling units at Eastgate Apartments were designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991.
  14. Mesa Verde Apartments is a residential dwelling complex located at 6335 Annie Oakley Drive in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mesa Verde Apartments includes 17 two-story buildings without elevators, each with eight apartment units, four of which are located on the ground floor. Mesa Verde Apartments has 68 ground-floor units. All of the dwelling units at Mesa Verde Apartments were designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991.
  15. The units at Echo Bay Condominiums, Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments and Mesa Verde Apartments are "dwellings" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
  16. All 204 ground-floor units at Echo Bay Condominiums, all 228 ground-floor units at Aviata Apartments, all 156 ground-floor units at Eastgate Apartments, and all 68 ground-floor units at Mesa Verde Apartments are "covered multifamily dwellings" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(7)(B), and thus subject to the accessibility requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C).

    Count I: Individual Violation

  17. Plaintiff realleges and herein incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 16 above.
  18. Complainant Mark Mortenson has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. He is handicapped as defined by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602 (h).
  19. In or about August 1995, Mark Mortenson visited Echo Bay Condominiums after seeing a sales advertisement for condominium units there. On that occasion, he inspected a condominium unit with a salesperson. He observed that the unit was not accessible to him because, for example, the bedroom doorways were too narrow and the front door had round doorknobs.
  20. On or about October 3, 1995, Mark Mortenson filed a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), alleging discrimination on the basis of handicap. The complaint was filed pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a).
  21. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD ("Secretary") conducted an investigation of the complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered in that investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause exists to believe that discriminatory housing practices on the basis of handicap occurred. Therefore, on July 16, 1997, the Secretary issued a Determination of Reasonable Cause and Charge of Discrimination with respect to the complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging that Inland Empire Builders, Inc., The Heers Family Trust, Charles M. Heers, Marilyn C. Heers, Eric Miller and Echo Bay Condominium Owners Association engaged in discriminatory housing practices on the basis of handicap in violation of Section 804 of the Fair Housing Act.
  22. On or about August 11, 1997, Inland Empire Builders, Inc., The Heers Family Trust, Charles M. Heers and Marilyn C. Heers elected to have the charges resolved in a federal civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).
  23. On or about August 12, 1997, the Secretary authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action on behalf of Mr. Mortenson, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
  24. Defendants violated section 804(f)(3)(C) of the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct Echo Bay Condominiums in such a manner that: (a) the public use and common use areas (including the recreation building, meeting building, swimming pools, tennis courts and pathways) are readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities; and (b) all 204 ground-floor dwellings contain: (i) an accessible route into and through the dwelling; (ii) light switches, electrical outlets, and thermostats in accessible locations; (iii) reinforcements in the bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars; and (iv) usable kitchens such that an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.
  25. Defendants, through the actions referred to herein, have:
    1. Discriminated in the sale, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, dwellings to buyers because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1); and
    2. Failed to design and construct dwellings in compliance with the accessibility and adaptability features mandated by 42 U.S.C. § 3604 (f)(3)(C).
  26. Mr. Mortenson is an aggrieved person as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i). He may have suffered damages as a result of the Defendants' conduct as described herein.
  27. Defendants' conduct described herein was intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of others.

    Count II: Pattern Or Practice Violation

  28. Plaintiff realleges and herein incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 27 above.
  29. In Spring 1998, the Disabled Rights Action Committee and Ronald Ray Smith filed complaints with HUD alleging that Inland Empire Builders and Charles M. Heers discriminated on the basis of handicap in the design and construction of Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments, and Mesa Verde Apartments. Those complaints were filed pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a).
  30. On April 15, 1998, HUD referred the complaints regarding Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments and Mesa Verde Apartments to the Department of Justice as a possible "pattern or practice" of discrimination.
  31. Defendants violated Section 804(f)(3)(C) of the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments, and Mesa Verde Apartments in such a manner that: (a) the public use and common use areas are readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities; and (b) ground-floor dwelling units contain: (i) usable doors; (ii) an accessible route into and through the dwelling; (iii) light switches, electrical outlets, and thermostats in accessible locations; and (iv) usable kitchens and/or bathrooms such that an individual in a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.
  32. On information and belief, Defendants violated section 804(f)(3)(C) of the Fair Housing Act by failing to design and construct other covered multifamily dwellings -- in addition to Echo Bay Condominiums, Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments, and Mesa Verde Apartments -- such that public and common use areas and "covered" dwelling units are accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.
  33. Defendants, through the actions referred to herein, have:
    1. Discriminated in the sale, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, dwellings to buyers because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1); and
    2. Failed to design and construct dwellings in compliance with the accessibility and adaptability features mandated by 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C).
  34. The conduct of Defendants described herein constitutes:
    1. A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a); and
    2. A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, which denial raises an issue of general public importance under 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
  35. Persons who may have been the victims of Defendants' discriminatory housing practices are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i) and may have suffered injuries as a result of Defendants' conduct as described herein.
  36. Defendants' conduct, as described herein, was intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of others.

Prayer For Relief

WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an order that:

  1. Declares that Defendants' policies and practices, as alleged herein, violate the Fair Housing Act;
  2. Enjoins Defendants, their officers, employees, agents, successors and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from:
    1. Failing or refusing, to the extent possible, to bring the dwelling units and public use and common use areas at Echo Bay Condominiums, Aviata Apartments, Eastgate Apartments, Mesa Verde Apartments, and any other "covered" dwellings for which they are responsible for the design and construction, into compliance with 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C);
    2. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of Defendants' unlawful practices to the position they would have been in but for the Defendants' discriminatory conduct; and
    3. Designing or constructing any covered multifamily dwellings in the future that do not contain the accessibility and adaptability features set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C);
  3. Awards such actual damages as would fully compensate Complainant Mark Mortenson for injuries caused by Defendants' discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1);
  4. Awards punitive damages to Complainant Mark Mortenson pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1);
  5. Awards such damages as would fully compensate each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices for their injuries resulting from Defendants' discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B);
  6. Awards punitive damages to each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and
  7. Assesses a civil penalty against each Defendant in the maximum amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C) in order to vindicate the public interest.

    The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.

Janet Reno
Attorney General

Bill Lann Lee
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

Joan A. Magagna
Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section

Brian F. Heffernan
Lars T. Waldorf
Attorneys
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
P.O. Box 65998
Washington, D.C. 20035-5998
202-307-3802

Kathryn E. Landreth
United States Attorney
District of Nevada

Steven W. Myhre
Assistant United States
Attorney
701 E. Bridger Avenue
Suite 800
P.O. Box 16030
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
702-388-6336 > >

Updated August 6, 2015

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