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Shaw v. Cherokee Meadows, LP

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

December 30, 2019

DELLA SHAW, SHERLYNE TURNER, BERTHA JOHNSON, and MARY RAND, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHEROKEE MEADOWS, LP; CARLAND GROUP, LLC; REDBUD CONTRACTORS, LLC; CARLAND PROPERTIES, LLC; and BLACKLEDGE & ASSOCIATES, Defendants. CHEROKEE MEADOWS, LP and CARLAND GROUP, LLC, Third-Party Plaintiffs,
v.
CRAFTON TULL & ASSOCIATES, INC., Third-Party Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GREGORY K. FRIZZELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 93] of defendant Blackledge & Associates. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         This case arises from alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Rehabilitation Act, and Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (“UFAS”) at the Cherokee Meadows Apartments. Cherokee Meadows Apartments is a forty-eight (48) unit multi-family, affordable housing community (the “Community”) for persons aged sixty-two or older developed in 2016 by Carland Group, LLC and owned by Cherokee Meadows, LP. Plaintiffs allege Blackledge & Associates provided architectural and design services for the Community. Plaintiffs are tenants of Cherokee Meadows Apartments who allege that the Community includes artificial barriers that exclude persons with disabilities and do not comply with federal statutes. Plaintiffs further allege that defendants refused to grant reasonable accommodation requests.

         Based on these general allegations, the Complaint asserts the following claims against defendants: (1) failure to design and construct the public use and common use portions of the Community in a readily accessible and usable manner to handicapped persons in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C); (2) discrimination based on handicap in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f); (3) violation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; (4) discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 by designing, constructing, and maintaining housing that is not accessible to persons with disabilities; and (5) breach of contract. Pursuant to the order of June 8, 2018, the court dismissed the claim for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132, against Blackledge. [Doc. 46]. Blackledge now seeks summary judgment as to plaintiffs' remaining claims against it. [Doc. 93]. Plaintiffs filed a response to Blackledge's motion [Doc. 119');">119], and Blackledge filed a reply. [Doc. 135]. Thus, the motion is ripe for the court's review.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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.” A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242');">477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. “Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id. Further, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574');">475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Stover v. Martinez, 2 F.3d 1064');">382 F.3d 1064, 1070 (10th Cir. 2004). “A ‘judge's function' at summary judgment is not ‘to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Tolan v. Cotton, 4 S.Ct. 1861');">134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). Summary judgment is appropriate only “where ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Stover, 382 F.3d at 1070 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.p. 56(c)).

         III. Summary Judgment Analysis

         As previously stated, Blackledge seeks summary judgment as to the following claims: (1) failure to design and construct the public use and common use portions of the Community in a readily accessible and usable manner to handicapped persons in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C); (2) discrimination based on handicap in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f); (3) violation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; and (4) breach of contract.

         A. Count 1 - Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(C)

         Section 3604(f) of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of any dwelling because of handicap. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f). Plaintiffs first assert a specific claim under § 3604(f)(3)(C) that Blackledge failed to design and construct the Community dwellings in such a manner that the public use and common use portions were readily accessible to, and usable by, handicapped persons. Section 3604(f) of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) defines “discrimination” to include:

in connection with the design and construction of covered multifamily dwellings for first occupancy after the date that is 30 months after September 13, 1988, a failure to design and construct those dwellings in such a manner that-
(i) the public use and common use portions of such dwellings are readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons;
(ii) all the doors designed to allow passage into and within all premises within such dwellings are sufficiently wide to allow passage by handicapped persons in wheelchairs; and
(iii) all premises within such dwellings contain the following features of adaptive design:
(I) an accessible route into and through the dwelling;
(II) light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls in accessible locations;
(III) reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars; and
(IV) usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual in a wheelchair can ...

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