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Hines v. 1025 Fifth Avenue, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 23, 2015

GEORGE HINES, M.D., HELENE HINES, and JENNIFER HINES, Plaintiffs,
v.
1025 FIFTH AVENUE, INC., Defendant.

James E. Bahamonde, Esq., The Law Offices of James E. Bahamonde, P.C., North Bellmore, NY, Counsel for Plaintiffs.

Steven Barshov, Esq., Sive, Paget & Reisel, P.C., New York, NY, Counsel for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

George, Helene, and Jennifer Hines (the "Hineses") bring discrimination claims under the Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights Law, and the New York City Administrative Code. They seek both injunctive relief and damages, and demand a trial by jury. 1025 Fifth Avenue, Inc. (the "Co-op") moves to strike the jury demand on the grounds that the Hineses waived their right to a jury trial. For the reasons that follow, the Co-op's motion is GRANTED and the jury demand is struck.

II. BACKGROUND

In 2001, Helene and George Hines purchased and moved into a one-bedroom co-op apartment owned by 1025 Fifth Avenue, Inc. (the "Co-op").[1] George and Helene identified themselves as co-applicants and both were interviewed by the Co-op's Board of Directors.[2] As part of their application, they listed the names and ages of their children, Brian Hines and Jennifer Hines.[3] Additionally, both George and Helene signed an acknowledgment that they had read the House Rules of the Co-op and that they understood the pet policy.[4] After the Board's approval, Helene and the Co-op executed a Proprietary Lease (the "Lease"), dated August 14, 2001 and extending through September 30, 2050.[5]

The Lease identifies Helene Hines as the Lessee.[6] Among other things, it includes a covenant related to the use of the premises, and provides: "The Lessee shall not occupy or use the apartment, or permit the same or any part thereof to be occupied or used, for any purpose other than as a private dwelling apartment for the Lessee[] [and] the family and servants of the Lessee...."[7] The Lease does not permit subletting without the Co-op's written consent.[8] The Lease also provides a procedure for the assignment of the Lease, which includes a requirement of written consent from either the Board of Directors or lessees owning a majority of the capital stock in the Co-op.[9] The Lease specifies that "the covenants herein contained shall apply to, bind and enure to the benefit of the Lessor and its successors and assigns, and the Lessee and the executors and administrators, legal representatives, legatees and assigns of the Lessee, except as hereinbefore stated."[10] Finally, the Lease provides for a waiver of trial by jury:

It is mutually agreed by and between the Lessor and the Lessee that the respective parties hereto shall and they hereby do waive trial by jury in any action, proceeding or counterclaims brought by either of the parties hereto against the other on any matters whatsoever arising out of or in any way connected with this lease, the Lessee's use or occupancy of the apartment, or any claim of damage resulting from any act or omission of the parties in any way connected with this lease or the apartment.[11]

The jury waiver appears on the last page of the Lease, which is also the signature page containing the signatures of the Co-op's representatives, Helene Hines, and Kathy Reitman, the Hines's attorney, as a witness.[12]

In or around 2010, Jennifer Hines moved into the apartment with her parents due to health concerns.[13] George and Helene Hines renovated the apartment to create a second bedroom for Jennifer.[14] Both Helene and Jennifer keep service dogs, and Jennifer keeps an emotional support dog as well.[15] These dogs assist Helene and Jennifer with the management of their diseases. Starting in or around 2013, the presence of the dogs, as well as the placement of Helene Hines's car, became a source of conflict between the Hineses and the Co-op.[16]

On May 21, 2014, the Hineses commenced this action against the Coop, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the New York State Human Rights Laws, the New York City Human Rights Laws, and the New York City Administrative Code. Plaintiffs allege that the Co-op has discriminated against the Hineses on the basis of their disabilities, and has refused to make reasonable accommodations or to allow Helene and Jennifer Hines to have equal housing opportunities.

III. APPLICABLE LAW

A. Right to a ...


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