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Echeverria v. Krystie Manor

March 30, 2009

BARBARA ECHEVERRIA AND LONG ISLAND HOUSING SERVICES, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
KRYSTIE MANOR, LP, ROLAND CONDE, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, AND JOHN DOE(S), AND JANE DOE(S), (THE PERSONS WHO WERE PRESENT AND COMMITTED WRONGFUL ACTS AND WHOSE NAMES ARE KNOWN BY THE OTHER DEFENDANTS) IN THEIR OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wall, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the court is a motion for summary judgment made by defendants Krystie Manor, LP and Roland Conde (collectively "Krystie Manor"). See Docket Entry ("DE") [50]. Plaintiffs Barbara Echeverria ("Echeverria) and Long Island Housing Services, Inc. ("LIHS") have opposed the motion. For the reasons set forth herein, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The material facts, drawn from the Complaint*fn1 , DE [1], and the parties' Rule 56.1 Statements, are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

Krystie Manor is a senior citizen apartment complex. Saepia Aff. ¶4, DE [26]. Plaintiff Echeverria was 55 years old at the time of the events leading to this litigation. She suffers from "multiple disabilities including dwarfism, kyphoscoliosis, asthma, arthritis and chronic pain secondary to radiculopathy." Echeverria Decl. ¶3, DE [32]. She owns a dog that she describes as a "companion animal . . . medically necessary for emotional support and acts as a service animal by performing services including, but not limited to, picking up dropped items from the floor and pulling carts filled with laundry." Id. ¶4.

Echeverria became aware of an apartment for rent at the Krystie Manor complex through a co-worker. Pls' Counter-Statement of Facts ("Pls' Cntr-Stmt") ¶33, DE [31]. On or about February 22, 2005,*fn2 Echeverria met with Barbara Saepia, a manager at Krystie Manor, regarding the apartment for rent. Defs' Rule 56.1 Stmt ("Defs' Stmt"), ¶10, DE [24]. They met for over an hour and Echeverria toured the available ground floor unit. Id. ¶¶10-11. Saepia provided Echeverria with an application and "other paperwork" that would be required to apply for renting a unit at Krystie Manor. Id. ¶12.

While it is undisputed that at the meeting, questions concerning Echeverria's dog were discussed, the content of that discussion is disputed. The parties do not dispute that pets are allowed in the complex. Defs' Stmt ¶15; Pls' Statement of Disputed Facts in Opposition ("Pls' Resp.") ¶15, DE [31]. Saepia informed Echeverria that the rules of the complex required residents to keep dogs on leads in common areas, and to walk dogs outside of the premises to let them urinate and defecate. Defs' Stmt ¶16. Defendants state that Saepia indicated that the requirement that dogs be walked off the property was "for health reasons, to avoid odors and avoid turning the lawn brown." Defs' Stmt ¶17. Echeverria acknowledges that Saepia told her the dog would have to be walked "off the property." Pls' Resp. ¶16. According to defendants, Echeverria told Saepia that "she would not walk her dog outside of the complex, as required . . . and that she wanted to let the dog run loose in the grass." Defs' Stmt ¶18. Defendants also claim that Echeverria never indicated that her wish to walk the dog off premises was due to any disability. Id. ¶19. Saepia further claims that she "was not aware of any disability other than Echeverria's short stature." Saepia Aff. ¶10.

Echeverria concedes that she did not, at the initial meeting with Saepia, inform her that her dog was a companion animal as she "did not feel there was any need to inform Ms. Saepia of the fact that her companion was medically prescribed because Krystie Manor permitted pets and no such inquiry was made." Pls' Cntr-Stmt ¶36. Echeverria claims that she never indicated that she would not walk the dog outside the complex, but rather that she was "unable to walk him and would do anything else she had to, such as use a pooper-scooper and litter box train the companion animal." Pls' Resp. ¶18 (emphasis in original). She further claims to have told Saepia that she could not walk the dog "due to her disability." Id. ¶19. Echeverria states that she told Saepia that she was willing to house train her dog or to follow him in the backyard and pick up his waste. Echeverria Decl. ¶25.

Echeverria claims that Saepia said she would talk to her "constituents" about the other options of "house training the companion or permitting me to use a pooper-scooper in the backyard" and that Saepia would get back to her. Echeverria Decl. ¶ 29. Echeverria left with an application and was told she had two days to complete it. Id. ¶21. Defendants "vehemently dispute[] that Ms. Echeverria was ever given an extension of time to submit the application." Defs' Response to Pls' Counter-Statement of Facts ("Defs' Resp.") ¶39, DE [37].

Echeverria claims that later that evening, she spoke again with Saepia, who advised her "that after conferring with her constituents, they were 'uncomfortable' with the situation with the companion animal and that she would not be allowed in, as per her constituents." Pls. CntrStmt ¶40 (emphasis in original). Saepia claims that she never spoke with Echeverria again after their initial meeting on February 22nd. Saepia Aff. ¶12. Defendants do not, however, claim that no one spoke to Echeverria on Krystie Manor's behalf, nor do they address the content of this alleged communication since Echeverria identifies Saepia as the woman with whom she spoke. See Defs' Resp. ¶40.

Echeverria further claims to have spoken with Saepia a third time at which time "Ms. Saepia told Ms. Echeverria that the apartment was rented and denied Ms. Echeverria housing based on the companion animal." Pls' Cntr-Stmt ¶42 (emphasis in original). Defendants again do not address the content of this alleged conversation. Instead, focusing on Echeverria's identification of the speaker as Saepia, they restate that Saepia did not meet or speak with Echeverria after their initial meeting. Defs' Resp. ¶42.

It is undisputed that Echeverria never submitted the written application to rent a unit at Krystie Manor. Defs' Stmt ¶20. Echeverria claims that she had already been "denied" the rental based on defendants' decision regarding her dog and that the paperwork was no longer necessary as she had already been rejected as a tenant. Pls' Resp. ¶20. Specifically, Echeverria argues that in the follow-up conversation with Saepia, Saepia informed her "that after communicating with her constituents I was denied the apartment because of the companion." Echeverria Decl. ¶34.

Echeverria informed LIHS Executive Director Michelle Santantonio about her experience with Krystie Manor. Echeverria Decl. ¶43. LIHS had been counseling Echeverria since approximately November 2004 regarding "her fair housing rights and legal rights due to her multiple disabilities." Santantonio Decl. ¶ 5, DE [33]. On or around February 24, 2005, Santantonio called Krystie Manor on Echeverria's behalf. Pls' Cntr-Stmt ¶57. The papers suggest that between February 24th and March 4th, there may have been telephone messages exchanged by Santantonio and/or someone on behalf of Krystie Manor. The parties agree, however, that on March 4, 2005, defendant Roland Conde, President of the Krystie Manor Homeowners Association, returned Santantonio's call and spoke with her. Defs' Stmt ¶22. Santantonio apparently tape-recorded the conversation with Conde without his knowledge.*fn3

It is undisputed that the telephone conversation between Santantonio and Conde was the final contact between the parties and that "thereafter, no further communication (written or oral) took place between Plaintiffs and Defendants." Defs' Stmt ¶24. The apartment was subsequently rented to Carol Lindstrom, who had submitted an application on March 2, 2005. Id. ¶21.

Plaintiffs originally commenced a single action against both the defendants involved here, as well as Babylon Park, a separate, unrelated housing complex, and its employees. See CV 06-1685. The parties entered into a stipulation that dismissed the Krystie Manor defendants from the earlier action and allowed plaintiffs to commence a separate action against them. The stipulation specifically required that "service is required as to each Defendant." Stipulation, CV 06-1685 DE [13]. That stipulation was So Ordered by District Judge Wexler on March 30, 2007, and the Complaint in this action was filed on April 2, 2007. Plaintiffs assert five causes of action in the Complaint: 1) violation of the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. §3601 et seq.; 2) violation of §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794; 3) violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"); 4) violation of Suffolk County Human Rights Law; and 5) violation of New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Executive Law ...


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