Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

PATRICK K. O'TOOLE
United States Attorney
PETER J. SHOLL
Assistant U.S. Attorney
California State Bar No. 147799
Office of the U.S. Attorney
880 Front Street, Room 6293
San Diego, California 92101-8893
Telephone: (619) 557-5049

Attorneys for Plaintiff
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
                                                                                        CASE NO. 02cv0161-IEG(JAH)
                     Plaintiff,
          v.

SAN MIGUEL 1 HOMEOWNERS                                 FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT
ASSOCIATION; and BILL MCADAMS,
President of the Board of Directors of
the San Miguel 1 Homeowners
Association,

                    Defendants.

Upon information and belief, the United States of America alleges as follows:

INTRODUCTION

  1. This is a civil action brought by the United States, on behalf of Aldo J. Sartor ("Sartor"), against the San Miguel 1 Homeowners Association ("SMHA") and Bill McAdams, President of the Board of Directors of the SMHA ("McAdams") (collectively, the "Defendants"), to enforce the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631 (the "FHA").
    JURISDICTION AND VENUE
  2. Jurisdiction exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 28 U.S.C. § 1345, and 42 U.S.C. § 361 2(o).
  3. Venue is proper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o) because the events or omissions giving rise to this action occurred in this district and because the property which is the subject of this action is located in this district.
    GENERAL ALLEGATIONS
  4. Sartor is, and at all relevant times was, a paraplegic who must use a wheelchair.
  5. Sartor is, and at all relevant times was, a person with a "handicap" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).
  6. In or about 1985, Sartor and his wife, who is now deceased, purchased a condominium unit in a condominium complex which is located at 600 North The Strand, #31, Oceanside, California 92054.
  7. At all relevant times, Sartor's condominium was a "dwelling" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
  8. At all relevant times, the SMHA controlled the common areas of the condominium complex, including an underground parking garage.
  9. At all relevant times, McAdams was the President of the Board of Directors of the SMHA.
  10. Sometime prior to October 8, 1993, the SMHA contacted an organization known as Accessible San Diego regarding the proposed installation of an electric security gate at the entrance to the underground parking garage at the condominium complex and the potential impact that such a gate would have on the ability of handicapped persons to access the garage.
  11. On October 8, 1993, Accessible San Diego responded to the SMHA's inquiry in a letter which suggested, among other things, that an emergency back-up system should be installed to ensure that handicapped persons would be able to safely exit the garage in the event of a power failure. Sometime prior to October 13, 1993, Sartor became aware that the SMHA planned to install an electric security gate at the entrance to the underground parking garage.
  12. On or about October 13, 1993, Sartor attended a meeting of the SMHA Board of Directors and read a letter in which he stated his objections to the proposed electric gate and requested that the proposed gate not be installed. One of the concerns expressed by Sartor was that installation of the proposed gate would make it impossible for him to exit the garage if the gate would not open because of an emergency or because it was damaged.
  13. If the gate and the elevators were damaged or otherwise inoperable due to a power failure or some other emergency, the gate could only be opened manually and the only other exits from the garage had stairs. Sartor could not climb stairs because of his disability. Sartor also did not have the physical strength to open the gate manually.
  14. On or about October 26, 1993, Defendants' attorney sent Sartor a letter which responded to the concerns that Sartor had expressed in his letter dated October 13, 1993 and at the meeting of the SMHA Board of Directors that Sartor had attended on that same date. The October 26 letter denied Sartor's request for a reasonable accommodation because, among other things, the proposed electric gate "does not significantly negatively impact" Sartor's ability to enter and exit the garage. The October 26 letter also stated that "[t]his letter shall serve as a formal demand that you cease disrupting Board meetings and physically accosting Board members. Failure to heed this demand will result in the ... [SMHA] obtaining a restraining order against you."
  15. Sartor denies that he disrupted meetings of the SMHA Board of Directors or physically accosted members of the Board.
  16. After the October 26, 1993 rejection of his request for a reasonable accommodation, Sartor continued to express his concerns regarding installation of the electric gate. In a letter dated November 1, 1993, which Sartor mailed to other condominium owners at his own expense, Sartor enclosed a copy of his October 13,1993 letter and stated that he was "requesting that if a third garage gate is to be installed, it can be located next to the elevator entrance lobby and to leave the entrance ramp open for an unobstructed egress escape route."
  17. On November 7, 1993, the SMHA installed the electric gate over Sartor's objections. The SMHA did not follow Accessible San Diego's recommendation that an emergency back-up system should be installed, did not grant Sartor's request that the electric gate be installed in a different location next to the elevator lobby entrance that would not obstruct the entrance to the underground parking garage, and did not take any other steps to ensure that handicapped persons would be able to safely exit the garage if the electric gate were to become inoperable due to a power failure.
  18. Thereafter, Sartor and his wife stopped using and ultimately sold their condominium because, in the absence of a reasonable accommodation that would afford Sartor an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his dwelling, Sartor would not have been able to safely exit the garage if the electric gate and the elevators were damaged or there was a power failure or some other emergency that rendered the electric gate and the elevators inoperable.
  19. Defendants' conduct violated the FHA by refusing to provide Sartor a reasonable accommodation that would allow Sartor to safely exit the garage if the electric gate and the elevators were damaged or there was a power failure or some other emergency that rendered the gate and the elevators inoperable, and also by intimidating, coercing, threatening, and interfering with Sartor in the exercise or enjoyment of his rights under the FHA.
  20. Defendants' conduct was intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for Sartor's rights under the FHA.
  21. As a result of the above conduct by Defendants, Sartor suffered substantial injuries and damages, including monetary damages, emotional distress, and loss of an important housing opportunity.
  22. As a result of the above conduct by Defendants, Sartor is an "aggrieved person" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).
    PROCEDURAL HISTORY
  23. On or about January 20, 1994, Sartor filed a housing discrimination complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). In the complaint, Sartor alleged that Defendants had discriminated against him on account of his handicap by installing an electric security gate at the entrance to the underground parking garage of his condominium complex, by refusing to make a reasonable accommodation that would allow Sartor to safely exit the garage if the gate and the elevators were damaged or there was a power failure or some other emergency that rendered the gate and the elevators inoperable, and by depriving him of an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his dwelling.
  24. On or about February 7, 2001, Sartor amended his complaint to, among other things, allege that Defendants unlawfully intimidated, coerced, threatened, and interfered with Sartor in the exercise or enjoyment of his rights under the FHA.
  25. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD (the "Secretary") conducted an investigation of Sartor's complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered during this investigation, the Secretary determined, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), that there is reasonable cause to believe that Defendants violated the FHA by committing the discriminatory housing practices alleged herein.
  26. On or about September 27, 2001, the Secretary issued a Determination of Reasonable Cause, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 361 0(g)(2)(A), charging that Defendants violated the FHA by engaging in the discriminatory housing practices alleged herein.
  27. On or about October 18, 2001, the Secretary issued an Amended Charge of Discrimination, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 361 0(g)(2)(A), charging that Defendants violated the FHA by engaging in the discriminatory housing practices alleged herein.
  28. On or about October 29, 2001, HUD's Acting Chief Administrative Law Judge issued a Notice of Election of Judicial Determination stating, among other things, that Sartor had made a timely election to have the charge of discrimination resolved in a federal civil action, and that the administrative proceeding concerning Sartor's complaint (HUDALJ 09-94-25 2129-8) was terminated so that the Secretary may proceed with a civil action, all in accordance with 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(a) and (o).
  29. On or about October 30, 2001, the Secretary authorized the Attorney General to file this action on behalf of Sartor pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
  30. The parties, through counsel, subsequently agreed that the 30-day statutory deadline to file this action under 42 U.S.C. 3612(o) shall be extended until January 25, 2002. Accordingly, this action is timely.
    FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF
    (Discrimination/Failure to Make Reasonable Accommodations)
  31. The allegations of paragraphs 1 through 31 are realleged as though fully set forth herein.
  32. Under 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B), it is unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a handicapped person an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
  33. Defendants committed unlawful discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B) by refusing Sartor's requests for a reasonable accommodation as set forth herein.
    SECOND CLAIM FOR RELIEF
    (Threats, Intimidation, Coercion, and Interference)
  34. The allegations of paragraphs I through 34 are realleged as though fully set forth herein.
  35. Under 42 U.S.C. § 3617, it is unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with a handicapped person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having exercised or enjoyed, any right granted or protected by 42 U.S.C. § 3604.
  36. Defendants committed unlawful discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 3617 by intimidating, coercing, interfering with, and threatening to take legal action against Sartor in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having exercised or enjoyed, his rights granted or protected by 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B) as set forth herein.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, the United States of America, on behalf of Aldo J. Sartor, respectfully prays that the Court issue an order that:

  1. Declares that Defendants' discriminatory housing practices, as set forth herein, violate the FHA, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631;
  2. Enjoins Defendants, their agents, employees and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from discriminating against any person on the basis of a handicap, including, but not limited to, refusing to grant such persons reasonable accommodations which may be necessary to afford such persons an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, and intimidating, coercing, interfering with, and threatening such persons in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of their having exercised or enjoyed, the rights granted or protected by the FHA;
  3. Awards such damages as will fully compensate Sartor for all injuries and damages caused by defendant's discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o)(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 3613(c);
  4. Awards punitive damages, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3614(d)(1)(B) and 42 U.S.C. 17 §§ 3613(c), because of the intentional, willful, and reckless nature of Defendants' conduct as set forth herein; and
  5. Such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper in the interests of justice.

Dated _________                                        Respectfully submitted,


_______________________
PETER J. SHOLL
Assistant U.S. Attorney

Attorneys for Plaintiff
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


Document Filed: May 5, 2002 > >
Updated August 6, 2015

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