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Pinckney v. Carroll

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 4, 2019

LOUISE CARROLL, as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING PRESERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT, and THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendants.



         Plaintiff Parisgiselle Pinckney[1] sued the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”), Louise Carroll, as Commissioner of HPD, and the City of New York for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131(2), 12132, 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(7); the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq; Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq; the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(2)(a), (c) et seq.; and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-106(4)(1)(a), 106(15)(a) et seq. See Second Am. Comp. (“SAC”), Dkt. 33 ¶¶ 115-84. Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and monetary damages. Id. ¶ 185. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Dkt. 34. Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         This action stems from the termination of Plaintiff's family's Section 8 housing assistance benefits. Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 provides federal funding to the owners of leased housing “for the purpose of aiding low-income families in obtaining a decent place to live.” Pl. Mem. of Law, Dkt. 38 at 6; 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(a). Defendant HPD administers a Section 8 voucher program through which low-income families in New York City receive subsidies that can be used to rent qualifying housing. Pl. Mem. of Law at 6. HPD has a written policy stating that reasonable accommodations to participants with disabilities will be made if the disabled individual completes a “Reasonable Accommodation Request form or submit[s] a letter from a medical professional [verifying] the person's disability and need for the reasonable accommodation.” Id.

         Plaintiff's now-deceased mother, Laurette Pinckney (“Ms. Pinckney”), began participating in the Section 8 voucher program in 2008. SAC ¶ 4. Thereafter, Plaintiff, along with her mother and brother, were able to move to 1211 Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. SAC ¶¶ 1, 4. In September 2016, Ms. Pinckney suffered a stroke and became wheelchair-bound, allegedly resulting in her being unable to comply in a timely way with the annual documentation and recertification requirements to maintain her Section 8 subsidy. SAC ¶¶ 69-70. As a result, on January 17, 2017, HPD issued a “Notice of Section 8 Rent Subsidy Termination, ” informing Ms. Pinckney that her voucher would be terminated at the end of February and indicating that any request for a hearing to contest the termination must be received by February 16, 2017. Id. ¶¶ 76-77.

         On February 2, 2017, Ms. Pinckney was hospitalized after her family found her unresponsive; she remained in the hospital until February 17, 2017. Id. ¶ 78. Allegedly as a result of her hospitalization, Ms. Pinckney failed to request a hearing to contest the termination of her voucher before the February 16 deadline. Four days after being released from the hospital, on February 21, Ms. Pinckney visited HPD's office with her home health aide and explained that she had been unable to comply with the recertification deadline or request a hearing because she had suffered a stroke and was in the hospital. Id. ¶ 81. Specifically, Ms. Pinckney requested permission to submit belatedly the documents required to reinstate her Section 8 voucher. Id. ¶ 82. Plaintiff asserts that HPD accepted the documents and instructed Ms. Pinckney to submit a written request for a hearing. Id. ¶ 83. Despite her oral request for an accommodation, as well as her subsequent written request for a hearing, HPD informed Ms. Pinckney that her recertification documents would not be accepted and denied her request for a hearing as untimely. Id. ¶ 84. Ms. Pinckney continued to speak to HPD personnel, in person and by phone, to request an accommodation that would enable her to reinstate her voucher. Id. ¶¶ 85-86. HPD allegedly refused Ms. Pinckney's requests and suggested she retain a lawyer. Id.

         In September 2017, Ms. Pinckney's landlord, 1211 Southern Boulevard, filed an eviction proceeding in Bronx Housing Court, alleging that Ms. Pinckney had violated her lease by failing to maintain her Section 8 subsidy. Id. ¶ 89. On May 23, 2018, HPD appeared in the eviction proceeding to confirm that it would not reinstate Ms. Pinckney's Section 8 voucher. Id. ¶ 92. Two weeks later, on June 13, 2018, Ms. Pinckney died at the age of 55. Id. ¶ 94. Following Ms. Pinckney's death, 1211 Southern Boulevard continued the eviction proceedings; on September 19, 2018, they notified Plaintiff that she had five days either to pay $21, 818 or to vacate the apartment. Id. ¶ 101. Plaintiff is 24 years old and suffers from depression and bipolar disorder. Id. ¶¶ 62-63. As a result of her mental illnesses and the stress of a looming eviction proceeding, Plaintiff was hospitalized in September 2018. Id. ¶ 102.

         On December 26, 2018, Plaintiff commenced this action against HPD, the City of New York, and HPD Commissioner, Louise Carroll. Dkt. 1. In April 2019, HPD agreed to reinstate Plaintiff's Section 8 voucher and made payments retroactive to the voucher termination in 2017. SAC ¶ 106. Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint on June 27, 2019. Dkt. 33. Plaintiff now seeks a declaratory judgment and damages for Defendants' failure to accommodate her mother's disability in violation of the ADA, RA, FHA, NYSHRL, and NYCHRL, as well as an injunction requiring HPD to adopt policies and institute training designed to ensure that HPD provides reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. Id. ¶ 185. Defendants move to dismiss the second amended complaint for lack of standing under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim under rule 12(b)(6).


         1. Standing

         Defendants move to dismiss the complaint on the ground that Plaintiff lacks standing to seek declaratory, monetary, or injunctive relief. The Court will address separately Plaintiff's standing (vel non) for monetary and injunctive relief.[3] See Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 185 (2000) (“Plaintiff must demonstrate standing separately for each form of relief sought.”).

         a. Legal Framework

         Pursuant to Article III of the Constitution, federal courts may only hear “cases” and “controversies.” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 576 (1992). To ensure the presence of a case or controversy, the Court must make a threshold determination of whether the plaintiff has standing to sue. Id. at 560-61. To have standing a plaintiff must allege: (1) a concrete, particularized, actual or imminent injury-in-fact; (2) a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of such that the injury is “fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant”; and (3) it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision from the Court. Id. at 560 (internal quotation marks omitted). If a plaintiff lacks standing, the claim must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Cent. States Se. & Sw. Areas Health & Welfare Fund v. Merck-Medco Managed Care, L.L.C., 433 F.3d 181, 198 (2d Cir. 2005).

         b. Plaintiff Has Standing to Seek Damages for Past Discrimination

         The scope of standing under the ADA, RA, and FHA is construed as broadly as is constitutionally permitted. See Innovative Health Sys., Inc. v. City of White Plains, 117 F.3d 37, 47 (2d Cir. 1997) (superseded on other grounds, Zervos v. Verizon N.Y., Inc., 252 F.3d 163, 171 n.7 (2d Cir. 2001)); Fulton v. Goord, 591 F.3d 37, 42 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding that the ADA and RA are not subject to any of the prudential limitations on standing); Fair Hous. in Huntington Comm. v. Town of Huntington, N.Y., 316 F.3d 357, 362 (2d Cir. 2003) (standing under the FHA is “coextensive with Article III standing”). Thus, “non-disabled parties bringing associational discrimination claims [under the ADA and RA] need only prove an independent injury causally related to the denial of federally required services to the disabled persons with whom the non- disabled plaintiffs are associated.” Loeffler v. Staten Island Univ. Hosp., 582 F.3d 268, 279-80 (2d Cir. 2009) (Wesley, J., concurring) (holding that the children of deaf parents suffered independent injuries sufficient to confer standing because they were compelled to provide sign language interpretation and were exposed to their father's suffering); see also McCullum v. Orlando Reg'l Healthcare Sys., Inc., 768 F.3d 1135, 1142 (11th Cir. 2014) (“it is widely accepted that under both the RA and the ADA, non-disabled individuals have standing to bring claims when they are injured because of their association with a disabled person”); Doe v. U.S. Sec'y of Transportation, No. 17-CV-7868, 2018 WL 6411277, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 4, 2018) (explaining that parents have standing to sue under the ADA and RA even when their disabled child was the person directly injured); Eskenazi-McGibney v. Connetquot Cent. Sch. Dist., 84 F.Supp.3d 221, 229-30 (E.D.N.Y. 2015).

         Similarly, under the FHA, any “aggrieved person, ” which includes anyone who “claims to have been injured by a discriminatory housing practice, ” has standing to bring a discrimination claim. 42 U.S.C. §§ 3602(i), 3613(a)(1)(A). An “aggrieved person” need not be the direct target of discrimination in order to have standing under the FHA. See Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co, 409 U.S. 205, 205-209 (1972) (holding that white tenants had standing to challenge landlord's racially discriminatory practices under the FHA because the “definition of ‘person aggrieved' in § 810(a) ...

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