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Rabalais v. Ware

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division

January 19, 2018

YVONNE BONNIE WARE, et al., Defendants.


          PHILIP R. LAMMENS United States Magistrate Judge

         In this action under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), pro se Plaintiff requests leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 2). Previously, due to deficiencies in the complaint, the Court deferred issuing a report and recommendation on Plaintiff's motion and allowed Plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff has now done so. (Doc. 4). Because the complaint still contains numerous deficiencies, however, Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is due to be denied and her complaint dismissed.

         I. Background

         Salt Springs Resort is a RV campground and vacation rental community located in Salt Springs, Florida within the Ocala National Forest. Plaintiff purchased an RV lot in the Resort in June 2014 and lives on the property. Plaintiff alleges that she suffers from PTSD, depression, a “back issue, ” “psychiatric and neurological disabilities, ” and “trigger fingers.” (Doc. 4 ¶19). She relies on a service dog, her white poodle “Prince, ” who assists Plaintiff by “picking up and carrying things for her, detecting and altering her of her medicine . . . [and] by preventing or interrupting compulsive or destructive behaviors.” (Doc. 4 ¶21).

         As best can be discerned from the complaint, these events began in mid-2014 when Plaintiff was fined by the Salt Springs Resort Association for various violations of the Association's by-laws, including refusing to take down a “pet fence” when not in use. Plaintiff purchased the pet fence after the Marion County Animal Services informed her that she could not allow the dog to roam freely around the property.[2] The Association did not object to the pet fence, or to the presence of the service animal, but required that the pet fence be taken down when not in use. Plaintiff alleges that she wished, as a reasonable accommodation, to be allowed to leave the fence up at all times because her trigger fingers make it difficult to fold and unfold the small fence.[3]

         In early 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) alleging the Association's by-laws were being applied in a discriminatory manner. (Doc. 4 ¶64). The complaint was ultimately dismissed after a finding of “No cause.” Plaintiff also filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Rights, which also resulted in a “No Cause” finding, although Plaintiff is currently challenging the dismissal of her untimely administrative appeal.

         In June of 2017, the Association filed an action to foreclose on Plaintiff's property based on the fines and unpaid dues. Plaintiff does not dispute that she has not paid the fines and owes dues but insists that she was unfairly targeted for retaliation. (Doc. 4 ¶¶81-84). The foreclosure proceeding remains pending.

         In addition to alleging that Defendants denied her a reasonable accommodation and applied the by-laws in a discriminatory manner, Plaintiff also alleges several residents of Salt Springs, including some of the named Defendants, slandered and harassed her, trespassed and destroyed her property, invaded of her privacy rights, filed false complaints against her, and engaged in unfair debt collection practices.

         II. Legal Standard

         An individual may be allowed to proceed in forma pauperis if the individual declares in an affidavit that she “is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). However, before a plaintiff is permitted to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is obligated to review the complaint to determine whether it is frivolous, malicious, or “fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Id. § 1915(e)(2). If the complaint is deficient, the Court is required to dismiss the suit sua sponte. Id.

         “A lawsuit is frivolous if the plaintiff's realistic chances of ultimate success are slight.” Clark v. Ga. Pardons & Paroles Bd., 915 F.2d 636, 639 (11th Cir. 1984) (internal citations omitted). The district court may dismiss a complaint under § 1915 on grounds of frivolousness if an affirmative defense would defeat the action. Id. at 640. “When the defense is apparent from the fact of a complaint or the court's records, courts need not wait and see if the defense will be asserted in a defensive pleading.” Id. at n.2. “Indigence does not create a constitutional right to the expenditure of public funds and the valuable time of the courts in order to prosecute an action which is totally without merit.” Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984).

         In evaluating a complaint under § 1915, a document filed pro se is to be liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The bare minimum a plaintiff must set forth in the complaint is found in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and explained further in Iqbal and Twombly. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). “A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While particularity is not required under Rule 8, “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         The Eleventh Circuit utilizes a two-pronged approach in its application of the holdings in Iqbal and Twombly. First, “eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely legal conclusions, ” and then, “where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). In short, the law requires something more “than an unadorned the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. ...

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