Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
GREENEVILLE


TAFT LYNN HUTCHINS,

          Plaintiff,

v.

BRUCE HURLEY,

          Defendant.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

          Plaintiff,

v.

BRUCE HURLEY; INVESTMENT
MANAGEMENT CORPORATION;
WESTERN HILLS, LTD. d/b/a WESTERN
HEIGHTS APARTMENTS,

           Defendants.

Consolidated


NO. 2:03-CV-266 (LEAD CASE)
Jordan/Inman


NO. 2:04-CV-329
Greer/Guyton

______________________________________________________

CONSENT DECREE

I.    INTRODUCTION

1. On July 28, 2003, Plaintiff Taft Lynn Hutchins filed his action against Bruce Hurley to enforce the provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the Fair Housing Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (1)

2. On September 13, 2004, the United States filed its action on behalf of Taft Lynn Hutchins against Bruce Hurley, Investment Management Corp., and Western Hills, Ltd. to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act. The United States brought its complaint following a Determination of Reasonable Cause and Charge of Discrimination issued by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a timely notice of election filed by Defendants. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o).

3. On June 30, 2005, the cases brought by Taft Lynn Hutchins and the United States were consolidated.

4. Defendants Bruce Hurley, Investment Management Corp., and Western Hills, Ltd. ("Defendants") are responsible for general overall maintenance, management and operation of the multiple dwellings and common areas which constitute Western Heights Apartments ("Western Heights"), located at 200 Arrowhead Drive, Rogersville, Tennessee 37857.

II.    ALLEGATIONS

1. The United States and Taft Lynn Hutchins ("Mr. Hutchins") allege in their Complaints that Mr. Hutchins is a physically disabled individual who is mobility impaired and is partially paralyzed on his left side. Mr. Hutchins is a handicapped person within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).

2. The United States and Mr. Hutchins allege that Defendants violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B), by refusing to make the requested accommodation when such reasonable accommodation was necessary to afford Mr. Hutchins an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his dwelling. The United States and Mr. Hutchins further allege that, as a result of Defendants' unlawful conduct, Mr. Hutchins suffered damages including, but not limited to, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and economic loss.

III.    AFFIRMATIVE RELIEF

A. Conditions

1. Defendants, their employees, agents, and all persons in active concert or participation with them shall:

  1. Within ten (10) days after the date of entry of this Decree, provide the monetary relief detailed in Section VI of this Consent Decree to the Plaintiff United States for delivery to Mr. Hutchins;
  2. Within ten (10) days after the date of entry of this Decree, provide the injunctive relief detailed in Section VII of this Consent Decree to Mr. Hutchins;
  3. Make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such reasonable accommodations may be necessary to afford all residents with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; and
  4. Not unlawfully coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his or her having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his or her having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of any right granted or protected by 42 U.S.C. § 3604.

B. Policies

1. Within sixty (60) days after the date of entry of this Decree, Defendants shall adopt and implement specific, uniform, and objective written standards and procedures for receiving and handling requests made by people with disabilities for reasonable accommodations. These standards shall comply with the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., and include the following provisions:

  1. Defendants shall inform all applicants and occupants of Western Heights Apartments that they may request reasonable accommodations of Defendants' rules, policies, practices, and services. Prior to lease execution, if prospective tenants inquire about reasonable accommodations, Defendants will inform them of their ability to seek reasonable accommodations.
  2. Defendants shall use the following forms: Request for Reasonable Accommodation ("Request Form") (Attachments A and B); and Approval or Denial of Reasonable Accommodation Request Form ("Approval Form") (Attachment C). Oral requests for Reasonable Accommodations will be recorded by the Property Manager using the form in Attachment B.
  3. Defendants shall provide a copy of the Reasonable Accommodation Policy for Persons with Disabilities attached hereto as Attachment D to each current and future Western Heights Apartments tenant.
  4. Defendants shall keep written records of each request for reasonable accommodation it receives during the duration of this Consent Decree. These records shall include: (a) the name, address, and telephone number of the person making the request; (b) the date on which the request was received; (c) the nature of the request; (d) whether the request was granted or denied; and (e) if the request was denied, the reason(s) for the denial.

    e. Defendants shall post the Reasonable Accommodation Policy by which a tenant may request a reasonable accommodation in the leasing office in a conspicuous location, easily viewable to tenants and prospective tenants.

    2. If Defendants proposes to change these standards and procedures, it shall first notify the United States with a copy of the proposed changes. If the United States does not deliver written objections to Defendants within sixty (60) days after receiving the proposed changes, the changes may be effected. If the United States makes any objections to the proposed changes within the sixty (60) day period, the specific changes to which the United States objects shall not be effected until the objections are resolved.

    C. Notice to Employees

    1. Within ten (10) days after the date of entry of this Decree, Defendants shall inform each of its employees, agents or any other persons who have responsibility for the management and/or maintenance of dwellings of such person's obligations under this Consent Decree and under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq. Defendants shall furnish each such employee, agent, or other person covered by this paragraph with a copy of this Consent Decree. Each such employee, agent, or other person covered by this paragraph shall sign a statement in the form of Attachment F acknowledging that he or she has received, read, and understood a copy of this Consent Decree, and declaring that he or she will perform his or her duties in accordance with this Consent Decree and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.

    2.New employees or new agents who have responsibility for the management and/or maintenance of dwellings shall: (a) be informed of the contents of this Consent Decree and of their obligations under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq., when their employment commences; (b) be provided a copy of this Consent Decree; and, (c) execute the statement appended hereto as Attachment E no later than five (5) calendar days following their first day of employment.

    3. Defendants designate Bruce Hurley as the person whose duty includes the processing of requests for reasonable accommodation. Defendants shall notify counsel for the United States in writing of any change in designation within seven (7) business day of such change.

    D. Notice to Tenants

    1. Within ten (10) days of the date of this Decree, Defendants shall mail current tenants notice of Defendants' non-discriminatory policies. This notice shall be in the form of Attachment F.

    2. Within ninety (90) days after the entry of this Order, Defendants shall post and maintain in its office, a HUD fair housing poster no smaller than 11 inches by 14 inches that indicates that all apartments are available for rent on a nondiscriminatory basis. The poster shall be in compliance with regulations promulgated by HUD and described in 24 C.F.R. §110.25,

    3. For the duration of this Consent Decree, Defendants shall keep a copy of this Consent Decree in its leasing office for interested individuals to review.

    E. Training

    1. Within thirty (30) days after the date of entry of this Decree, Defendants shall provide verification of the educational training concerning the sections of the Fair Housing Act pertaining to discrimination on the basis of disability previously received by its employees and agents whose duties, in whole or in part, involve supervisory authority over the rental and management of dwellings. All employees and agents who have not received such training shall attend an educational training program concerning the sections of the Fair Housing Act pertaining to discrimination on the basis of disability within 90 days after the date of entry of this decree. This training shall be conducted by a qualified third party unconnected to Defendants or its employees, agents, or counsel, subject to approval by the United States. Defendants shall provide to the United States, within 30 days after the training, the name(s), address(es) and telephone number(s) of the trainer(s) and certifications executed by the trainers confirming the attendance of the trainee(s).

    2. During the period in which this Decree is in effect, each new employee or agent of Defendants who has supervisory authority over the rental and management of dwellings shall attend, after their hiring, the next practicable training session conducted by the training entity.

    3. All costs and expenses related to the training requirements of this Consent Decree shall be the sole responsibility of Defendants.

    IV.    REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

    1. Defendants shall, no later than ninety (90) days after the date of entry of this Consent Decree, serve upon counsel for the United States a written report explaining its efforts to comply with this Consent Decree. (2)This report shall consist of the following:

    1. Copies of the statements signed by any and all employees pursuant to Section III(C) of this Consent Decree;
    2. A copy of the notice sent to current tenants pursuant to Section III(D) of this Consent Decree; and
    3. Copies of certification of attendance at fair housing educational programs pursuant to Section III(E) of this Consent Decree.

    2. Six (6) months after the date of entry of this Consent Decree, and every six (6) months thereafter for three (3) years, Defendants shall serve on counsel for the United States a written report explaining its efforts to comply with this Consent Decree. In each report required under this paragraph, Defendants shall:

    1. Provide copies of statements signed by any new employees pursuant to Section III(C) of this Consent Decree;
    2. Provide copies of certification of attendance for fair housing educational programs for any new employees pursuant to Section III(E) of this Consent Decree;
    3. Notify counsel for the United States of any request it has received for reasonable accommodation. Such notification shall include information contained in Section III(B)(1)(d);
    4. Notify counsel for the United States of any written complaint that involves housing discrimination on the basis of disability which has come to the attention of Defendants or any of its employees, agents or other representatives in the preceding six-month period. Defendants shall include a copy of the complaint and any records relating to the complaint, including those relating to the resolution of the complaint; and
    5. Notify counsel for the United States of any change in the ownership or management of the Western Heights Apartments. Such notification shall include the address and the name of any new owner or manager.

    V.     INSPECTION OF DOCUMENTS

    For the duration of this Decree, Defendants shall preserve all records pertaining to Defendants' obligations under this Decree. Upon reasonable notice to Defendants' counsel, representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice shall be permitted to inspect and copy all such records at reasonable times in order to monitor Defendants' compliance with this Decree.

    VI.    MONETARY RELIEF FOR Taft Lynn Hutchins

    Within ten (10) days after the date of this Decree, Defendants shall deliver to the United States a check for $10,000.00 made payable to the order of Taft Lynn Hutchins. Within ten (10) days of receipt of said check by the United States, Taft Lynn Hutchins shall sign the Release Agreement attached hereto as Attachment G. Counsel for the United States shall not forward the check to Taft Lynn Hutchins until the United States has received said executed Release Agreement. The United States shall forward the executed Release Agreement to Defendants upon receipt.

    VII.     REFERENCE LETTER FOR Taft Lynn Hutchins

    Within ten (10) days after the date of this Decree, Defendants shall deliver to the United States and Mr. Hutchins a reference letter addressed to Mr. Hutchins and signed by a representative of Defendants, which states: "The purpose of this letter is to provide you with a reference for any future residence or apartment at which you may seek to reside. Western Heights will confirm that you were a tenant in good standing from April of 1998 until June of 2001."

    VIII.     GOOD FAITH COMPLIANCE

    The United States, Mr. Hutchins and Defendants shall endeavor in good faith to resolve informally any differences regarding interpretation of and compliance with this Decree prior to bringing such matters to the Court for resolution. However, in the event of a failure by Defendants, whether willful or otherwise, to perform in a timely manner any act required by this Decree or in the event of any other act violating any provision hereof, the United States may move this Court to impose any remedy authorized by law or equity.

    IX.    TIME FOR PERFORMANCE, INTERPRETATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS

    1. The United States, Mr. Hutchins and Defendants shall have the right to seek relevant reasonable modifications of the Decree to ensure that its purposes are fully satisfied. If the parties are unable to reach mutual agreement concerning a particular modification, the burden of proof concerning the propriety of modification falls on the party so moving. Any time limits for performance imposed by this Decree may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties without approval by the Court, provided that such agreement is in writing.

    2. This Decree constitutes the entire agreement among the parties and supersedes and renders void all prior agreements, written or oral, among the parties. In the event any provision or term of this Decree is determined to be or is rendered invalid or unenforceable, all other provisions and terms of the Decree shall remain unaffected to the extent permitted by law.

    X.    SCOPE AND TERM OF DECREE AND
    DISMISSAL OF ACTION

    1. The provisions of this Decree shall apply to Defendants, and their employees, agents, and all persons in active concert or participation with them.

    2. This Decree is effective immediately upon its entry by the Court and shall be effective for a period of three (3) years thereafter.

    3. For purposes of this Decree, the phrase "date of this Decree" shall refer to the date on which the Court enters this document as its own Decree.

    4. This Consent Decree may be extended upon motion for good cause, including on the basis that Defendants have failed to comply with this Decree.

    5. The Court shall retain jurisdiction of the action and over Defendants for the term of this Decree. Each party shall bear its own attorneys' fees, expert fees, and costs. This case shall be administratively closed. Either party may reopen by motion.



    It is so ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED on this 12th day of August, 2005.



    s/ Leon Jordan

    HONORABLE LEON JORDAN

    UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE



    Agreed to by the parties as indicated by the signatures of counsel below.



    FOR THE UNITED STATES:

    BRADLEY J. SCHLOZMAN
    Acting Assistant Attorney General

    s/ CARL A. ANDERSON

    STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
    Chief
    MICHAEL S. MAURER
    Deputy Chief
    CARL A. ANDERSON
    Trial Attorney
    Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
    Civil Rights Division,
    U.S. Department of Justice
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. - NWB
    Washington, D.C. 20530
    Phone: (202) 514-6164
    Fax: (202) 514-1116

    FOR THE DEFENDANTS: BRUCE
    HURLEY, INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT
    CORP., AND WESTERN HILLS, LTD.:

    s/ JEFFREY CRANFORD

    H. SCOTT REAMS
    JEFFREY CRANFORD
    116 East Main Street
    Morristown, TN 37816-1799

    FOR PLAINTIFF TAFT LYNN HUTCHINS:


    s/ TAFT LYNN HUTCHINS

    TAFT LYNN HUTCHINS (Pro Se)
    818 Oak Street, Apt. # 121
    Kingsport, TN 37660




    1. The parties agree that the ADA is not at issue in this case.

    2. All documents or other communications required by this Consent Decree to be sent to the United States or counsel for the United States shall be sent via facsimile, 202-514-1116, and via overnight delivery, addressed as follows: Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, DJ #: 175-70-144, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, 1800 G Street, Ste. 7002, Washington, DC 20006. For documents exceeding 30 pages, the first 30 pages shall be sent via facsimile and the complete document shall be sent via overnight service.


    Document Filed: August 12, 2005

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Updated August 6, 2015

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