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Sanzaro v. Ardiente Homeowners Ass'n LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 23, 2014

DEBORAH SANZARO and MICHAEL SANZARO, Plaintiffs,
v.
ARDIENTE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION LLC, et al., Defendants

Page 1110

Deborah Sanzaro, Plaintiff, Pro se, North Las Vegas, NV.

Michael Sanzaro, Plaintiff, Pro se, North Las Vegas, NV.

For Ardiente Homeowners Association LLC, Scott Harris, Corona Ardiente LLC, James Marsh, Linda Kemper, Margo Hughen, Ryan Smith, Laury Phelps, RMI Management, LLC, Kevin Wallace, Defendants: Joseph P Garin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kaleb D. Anderson, Lipson Neilson Cole Seltzer & Garin, P.C., Las Vegas, NV.

For Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow, John Leach, Defendants: Sean L. Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Nicole Guralny, Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow, Las Vegas, NV.

For J.F. Shea Co., Inc., Defendant: Stephen N. Rosen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Janice M Michaels, Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP, Las Vegas, NV.

OPINION

PHILIP M. PRO, United States District Judge.

Page 1111

ORDER

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs Deborah Sanzaro and Michael Sanzaro's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. #92), filed on November 21, 2013. Defendants John Leach and Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow filed an Opposition (Doc. #99) on December 12, 2013. Defendants Ardiente Homeowners Association LLC, Scott Harris, Corona Ardiente LLC, James Marsh, Linda Kemper, Margo Hughen, Ryan Smith, Laury Phelps, RMI Management LLC, and Kevin Wallace filed a Joinder (Doc. #102) on December 13, 2013. Plaintiffs filed a Reply (Doc. #105) on December 27, 2013.

Also before the Court is Defendants John Leach and Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow's Counter Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. #100), filed on December 12, 2013. Defendants Ardiente Homeowners Association LLC, Scott Harris, Corona Ardiente LLC, James Marsh, Linda Kemper, Margo Hughen, Ryan Smith, Laury Phelps, RMI Management LLC, and Kevin Wallace filed a Joinder (Doc. #103) on December 13, 2013. Plaintiffs' Opposition is included within their Reply (Doc. #105), filed on December 27, 2013. Defendants did not file a Reply.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Michael Sanzaro (" Mr. Sanzaro" ) and his wife, Deborah Sanzaro (" Mrs. Sanzaro" ), own property located within the Ardiente development, which is governed by Defendant Ardiente Homeowners Association LLC (" the HOA" ). (Resp. to Mot. Partial. Summ. J. [" Counter MPSJ" ] (Doc. #99), Ex. C at 1, Ex. D at 1.) Defendant Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow, a law firm in Las Vegas of which Defendant John Leach is a partner, represents

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the HOA. (Compl. (Doc. #78) at 7; Answer (Doc. #67) at 2.)

In March 2005, the Social Security Administration found Mrs. Sanzaro became disabled on March 12, 2004, when she became unable to walk unassisted, and granted her disability benefits. (Pls.' Mot. Partial Summ. J. (Doc. #92) [" MPSJ" ], Aff. of Deborah Sanzaro in Supp. of MPSJ [" Mrs. Sanzaro Aff." ] at 3, Ex. 1.) Mrs. Sanzaro requires the use of a walker and a leg brace, and she has chronic pain and reduced physical abilities. (Mrs. Sanzaro Aff. at 2.) In October 2008, Mrs. Sanzaro began searching for a dog to assist her with her pain levels and limited mobility. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiffs soon thereafter acquired a Chihuahua dog (" Angel" ), and Mrs. Sanzaro experienced reduced pain levels while Angel sat on her lap. (Id. at 3-4.) Plaintiffs trained Angel to retrieve Mrs. Sanzaro's walker, cellular telephone, and dropped keys. (Id. at 4-5.) The issue in this case is whether Mrs. Sanzaro should be allowed to have Angel accompany her as a service animal in the HOA clubhouse. Plaintiffs' claims arise out of three incidents.[1]

Mrs. Sanzaro entered the clubhouse accompanied by Angel on March 10, 2009, and introduced herself to HOA staff as a disabled person, and Angel as a service animal. (Mrs. Sanzaro Aff. at 6-7, Ex. 5.) The first incident occurred after Mrs. Sanzaro and Angel entered the HOA clubhouse the following day. (Mrs. Sanzaro Aff. at 8.) Once inside, Defendant Laury Phelps (" Phelps" ), the HOA Community Manager at the time, approached Mrs. Sanzaro. (Counter MPSJ, Ex. C at 1-2.) According to Phelps, Phelps and asked why Mrs. Sanzaro needed Angel in the clubhouse. (Id.) Phelps states that after Mrs. Sanzaro did not respond, Phelps asked her to remove Angel from the clubhouse. (Id.) Mrs. Sanzaro then left, but returned with Angel thirty minutes later. (Id.) Phelps states she requested Mrs. Sanzaro to provide " documentation or information to confirm that [Mrs. Sanzaro] was disabled and the dog was a service animal," but Mrs. Sanzaro refused to do so. (Id. at 2.) According to Mrs. Sanzaro, Phelps never requested proof that Angel was a service animal, but rather ordered both of them to leave the clubhouse. (Mrs. Sanzaro Aff. at 8.) Mrs. Sanzaro claims she showed Phelps a " service dog patch on the handle of Angel's leash" and refused to leave. (Id.) The parties agree that Phelps ultimately called security to escort Mrs. Sanzaro out of the clubhouse. (Id. at 8-9; Counter MPSJ, Ex. C at 1-2.)

The HOA held an open hearing regarding the first incident on March 30, 2009, and invited Mrs. Sanzaro to attend the hearing and present evidence of her disability and Angel's certification as a service animal. (Counter MPSJ, Exs. C-E.) Mrs. Sanzaro neither attended the hearing nor sent any documentation on her behalf, and counsel for the HOA mailed the results to Plaintiffs on April 9, 2009. (Id., Ex. F.) The HOA issued a fine, but the HOA offered to retract the fine if Mrs. Sanzaro either ceased bringing Angel into the clubhouse, or provided evidence showing that she is handicapped and that Angel is necessary for Mrs. Sanzaro to enjoy the clubhouse. (Id.)

On July 27, 2009, prior to the second and third incidents, Plaintiffs sent the HOA's counsel copies of letters from the Social Security Administration and Mrs. Sanzaro's

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physician stating that Mrs. Sanzaro is disabled.[2] (MPSJ, Aff. of Michael Sanzaro in Supp. of MPSJ [" Mr. Sanzaro Aff." ] at 4, Ex. 7.) Plaintiffs also sent a statement from another doctor requesting that Angel is " authorized to be registered as a service dog under the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act," and a veterinarian's statement certifying that Angel has received the necessary shots and will not be a threat to the general public. (Id., Ex. 7.) Plaintiffs also sent a letter from Mrs. Sanzaro, in which she explains that Angel was trained to assist her by retrieving her walker in the event it rolls away or falls over. (Id.) Mrs. Sanzaro also explains that she chose a Chihuahua because the dog's small size " would give me comfort and companionship as well as assist me with my disabilities . . . without causing pain." (Id.) Mrs. Sanzaro further states in her letter that " Angel will ...


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