United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL
L. ROSENBERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff George
Friedel's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on
Defendant's Liability [DE 31]. The Court has carefully
considered Plaintiff's Motion, Defendant's Memorandum
of Law in Opposition thereto [DE 46], and Plaintiff's
Reply [DE 53], and is otherwise fully advised in the
premises. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's
Motion is DENIED.
George Friedel, filed his Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial
(the “Complaint”) [DE 1] on February 19, 2017. In
his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he resides in a
manufactured home community operated by Defendant, Park Place
Community LLC. See DE 1 ¶¶ 5-6. Plaintiff
further alleges that Defendant has demanded that Plaintiff
remove Maggie, Plaintiff's ten-year-old golden retriever,
from his home or face eviction. See Id. ¶¶
9, 21. According to Plaintiff, this demand violates the Fair
Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. In
support of this claim, Plaintiff alleges that he is disabled
and that Maggie is an emotional support animal. See
Id. ¶¶ 7-8, 22. As Defendant's demand for
Maggie's removal forces Plaintiff to choose between his
home and his emotional support animal, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant has made unavailable or denied a dwelling to
Plaintiff because of a handicap in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 3604(f)(1)(A). See Id. ¶¶ 31-33.
21, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Motion presently before the
Court, seeking partial summary judgment as to Defendant's
liability for violation of the Fair Housing Act. See
DE 31. Upon review of Plaintiff's Motion and the
parties' respective filings in opposition thereto and in
support thereof, the Court finds genuine disputes of material
fact. Summary judgment is therefore inappropriate.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is appropriate where “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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The existence of a factual dispute is not
by itself sufficient grounds to defeat a motion for summary
judgment; rather, “the requirement is that there be no
genuine issue of material fact.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-48 (1986). A dispute is genuine if “a reasonable
trier of fact could return judgment for the non-moving
party.” Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v.
United States, 516 F.3d 1235, 1243 (11th Cir. 2008)
(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48). A fact is
material if “it would affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law.” Id. (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48).
deciding a summary judgment motion, the Court views the facts
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws
all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See
Davis v. Williams, 451 F.3d 759, 763 (11th Cir. 2006).
The Court does not weigh conflicting evidence. See Skop
v. City of Atlanta, 485 F.3d 1130, 1140 (11th Cir.
2007). Thus, upon discovering a genuine dispute of material
fact, the Court must deny summary judgment. See id.
3604(f)(1) makes it unlawful to discriminate in the rental
of, or to otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling
because of a disability of the renter or a person associated
with the renter.” Hunt v. Aimco Properties,
L.P., 814 F.3d 1213, 1222 (11th Cir. 2016) (citing 42
U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1)). However, section 3604(f) does not
“require that a dwelling be made available to an
individual whose tenancy would constitute a direct threat to
the health or safety of other individuals or whose tenancy
would result in substantial physical damage to the property
of others.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(9). The Court
concludes that genuine disputes of material fact exist as to
whether Plaintiff has a disability and whether permitting
Maggie to remain with Plaintiff constitutes a direct threat
within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act. These disputes
provide two independent bases for denying summary judgment.
the Fair Housing Act, the term
“handicap” includes “(1) a physical or mental
impairment which substantially limits one or more of [a]
person's major life activities, (2) a record of having
such an impairment, or (3) being regarded as having such an
impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(h); see also
Hunt, 814 F.3d at 1222 (quoting 42 U.S.C. §
3604(h)(1)). The phrase “physical or mental
impairment” includes any physiological disorder or
condition affecting the cardiovascular system. 24 C.F.R.
§ 100.201(a)(1). The phrase “physical or mental
impairment” also includes “[a]ny mental or
psychological disorder, such as . . . emotional or mental
illness, ” and “such diseases and conditions as .
. . heart disease . . . [and] emotional illness.” 24
C.F.R. § 100.201(a)(2). The phrase “major life
activities” includes “functions such as caring
for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing,
hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.” 24
C.F.R. § 100.201(b).
case, a genuine dispute of material fact exists as to whether
Plaintiff has a disability within the meaning of the Fair
Housing Act. Plaintiff has submitted evidence that he suffers
from depression and heart disease and that the symptoms of
his depression worsen in Maggie's absence, substantially
limiting his daily function. See, e.g., DE 32,
Declaration of George Friedel at ¶¶ 8-10, 12
(stating that Plaintiff “was despondent, felt hopeless,
had trouble getting out of bed and frequently cried”
without Maggie and that Plaintiff's “depression and
anxiety over possibly having to be separated from Maggie
contributed to [a] panic attack”); DE 30-7, Declaration
of Kathleen Friedel at ¶¶ 5-7 (stating that
Plaintiff's depression causes prolonged periods of
lethargy and withdrawal, difficulty sleeping, concentrating,
and getting out of bed, crying spells, and irritability); DE
30-11, January 11, 2017 Letter from Guillermo F. Morel, M.D.
(stating that Plaintiff “suffers from several chronic
medical conditions including coronary atherosclerosis and
heart failure, ” that Plaintiff “has a history of
suffering from Major Depression, ” that Plaintiff's
depression has recently recurred, and that Plaintiff's
depression “substantially limits his daily function,
including cognition and self-care”); DE 30-15, May 5,
2017 Letter from Richard Levandowski, M.D. (stating that
Plaintiff “is under stress in recurrence of depression,
which is helped by his attachment and caring for his dog
Maggie”). However, this evidence is directly
contradicted by Plaintiff's medical records, which
indicate that between March 10, 2016 and January 30, 2017,
Plaintiff's depression was in full remission.
See DE 46-2. The Court also notes that Defendant has
submitted evidence calling into question the accuracy of Dr.
Levandowski's letter. See DE 44, Deposition of
George Friedel at 61:1-62:19 (acknowledging that the last
time Dr. Levandowski saw Plaintiff was two or three years ago
and that Dr. Levandowski was unaware that Dr. Morel had
diagnosed Plaintiff's depression as in remission).
Whether Plaintiff does in fact have a disability-a physical
or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of
his major life activities-must therefore be determined by the
jury. Accordingly, Plaintiff is not entitled to summary
judgment on his claim that Defendant has made unavailable or
denied a dwelling to Plaintiff because of a disability in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1)(A).