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Carlson v. Sunshine Villas Hoa, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

May 22, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on defendants' Motions to Dismiss Counts I and II for Failure to State a Claim (Docs. ##31, 32) filed on March 21 and 26, 2018. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. #36) on April 10, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are granted in part and denied in part.


         In this Fair Housing Act case, plaintiff Kailani Carlson alleges that defendants constructively denied her requested accommodation of keeping an emotional support dog at her home to alleviate her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. On May 2, 2018, plaintiff filed a three-count Amended Complaint (Doc. #28) against defendants Sunshine Villas HOA, Inc., Allan Nielsen as treasurer of Sunshine Villas, and Doris Walters as vice president of Sunshine Villas and plaintiff's landlord. Plaintiff brings two claims for violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1) (Count I) and § 3704(f)(3) (Count II). Count III alleges that Walters violated the Florida Consumer Credit Protection Act.

         The Amended Complaint alleges as follows: Plaintiff has resided at the Sunshine Villas in Port Charlotte, Florida for nearly three years with her minor daughter. (Doc. #28, ¶ 15.) Defendant Walters is the vice president of Sunshine Villas Home Owner's Association (HOA), and Defendant Nielsen is the registered agent and treasurer of the HOA. (Id., ¶¶ 22-23.) Walters owns the unit plaintiff resides in pursuant to a Lease Agreement entered into between them. (Doc. #28-6.)

         Plaintiff suffers from PTSD, and is supervised by doctors for the condition. (Doc. #28, ¶ 26.) In April 2017, due to her PTSD, plaintiff's doctors suggested that she obtain an emotional support dog. (Id., ¶ 31.) In early September 2017, plaintiff discussed the emotional support dog with Walters, providing Walters with a written request for an accommodation along with a letter from plaintiff's medical provider that plaintiff needed a service dog due to plaintiff's PTSD. (Id., ¶ 33; Docs. ##28-2, 28-3.) During the discussion, Walters did not object to the emotional support dog, only telling plaintiff to “pick up after” the dog. (Id., ¶ 34.)

         Despite Walters initial acquiescence, plaintiff received a letter from Walters dated September 26, 2017, informing plaintiff that she was not allowed to have a dog reside at the apartment because dogs are not allowed at Sunshine Villas. (Doc. #28-4.) Walters stated that she had “spoken to our manager . . . and know he will fight it.” (Id.) Plaintiff believes Walters was referring to defendant Nielsen as the “manager” in the letter. After the letter, Walters began to text plaintiff for several days harassing her about the emotional support dog and threatening eviction. (Id., ¶ 39.) Plaintiff provided Walters with a second letter from her doctor stating plaintiff's medical need for an emotional support dog. (Id., ¶ 40; Doc. #28-5.)

         In what plaintiff believes was retaliation for her request for a reasonable accommodation, on October 6, 2017, Walters sent plaintiff a Final Notice to Vacate, stating that since plaintiff's lease was now on a month-to-month basis, Walters was terminating the lease and ordered plaintiff to vacate the apartment by November 1, 2017. Plaintiff received the letter on October 12, 2017. (Doc. #28, ¶ 42; Doc. #28-6, p. 16.) On October 13, 2017, plaintiff paid Walters monthly rent in advance for the rental period October 15, 2017 to November 15, 2017. (Doc. #28, ¶ 41.) At this point, plaintiff retained counsel to assist her. (Id., ¶ 45.)

         Walters returned the rent money to plaintiff, informing plaintiff that she only owed a half-month rent (from October 15 -November 1, 2017) because plaintiff was to vacate by November 1, 2017. (Doc. #28, ¶ 46; Doc. #28-7.) Plaintiff then received a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Deliver Possession from Walters, dated October 26, 2017. (Id., ¶ 47; Doc. #28-8.) Although counsel represented plaintiff at this point, plaintiff again tried to pay Walters the full rent and notified Walters that her eviction attempts were illegal. (Doc. #28-9.)

         Prior to filing suit, plaintiff's counsel contacted Nielsen at Sunshine Villas HOA and requested a policy, procedure, or information necessary for requesting a reasonable accommodation. (Doc. #28, ¶¶ 50-53.) Nielsen refused to provide any information and directed plaintiff to contact their counsel. (Id.) Plaintiff's counsel contacted defense counsel prior to filing suit, requesting a reasonable accommodation, but still prepared to file suit. (Id., ¶ 56.) On October 31, 2017, defendants' attorney notified plaintiff that she would be granted the reasonable accommodation of an emotional support dog. (Id., ¶ 57.) Plaintiff alleges that as a result of defendants' violations of the FHA prior to granting her request, plaintiff has suffered pain, emotional distress, embarrassment, and costs associated with seeking to resolve the matter. (Id., ¶ 58.) Moreover, plaintiff alleges that because she currently only has a month-to-month tenancy at her Sunshine Village apartment, she does not feel secure in her home. (Id., ¶ 59.)

         Defendants move to dismiss, arguing that plaintiff's FHA claims fail because defendants provided plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation and plaintiff still resides at the apartment with the emotional support dog. Plaintiff believes that the delay in providing the accommodation was unreasonable and unlawful under the FHA.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a Complaint 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). This obligation “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). To survive dismissal, the factual allegations must be “plausible” and “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. See also Edwards v. Prime Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010). This requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), but “[l]egal conclusions without adequate factual support are entitled to no assumption of truth.” Mamani v. Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148, 1153 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Factual allegations that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability fall short of being facially plausible.” Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 693 F.3d 1333, 1337 (11th Cir. 2012) (internal citations omitted). Thus, the Court engages in a two-step ...

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