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Sanzaro v. Ardiente Homeowners Association LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

November 29, 2017

DEBORAH SANZARO and MICHAEL SANZARO, Plaintiffs,
v.
ARDIENTE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, LLC, A NEVADA NON-PROFIT CORPORATION; SCOTT HARRIS, Declarant and former Ardiente HOA Board Member, CORONA ARDIENTE LLC, Declarant; SHEA HOMES LLC, Declarant; JAMES MARSH and LINDA KEMPER former Ardiente HOA Board Presidents; MARGO HUGHEN, present Ardiente HOA Board President; RYAN SMITH, Ardiente HOA Board Member; LAURY PHELPS, former community Manager and employee; RMI MANAGEMENT LLC; KEVIN WALLACE, Law Firm of LEACH JOHNSON SONG & GRUCHOW; JOHN LEACH Defendants.

          ORDER

          RICHARD F. BOULWARE, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court are the following motions:

1. Motion to Reconsider Order (ECF No. 115) by Plaintiffs. ECF No. 118.
2. Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant J.F. Shea Co., Inc. ECF No. 139.
3. Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (titled “Motion to grant five orders”) by Plaintiffs. ECF No. 145.
4 Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant J.F. Shea Co., Inc., ECF No. 154.
5. Motion to Amend/Correct re: Answer by Defendant J.F. Shea Co., Inc. ECF No.
6. Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants John Leach, Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow on March 25, 2015. ECF No. 225.
7. Motion to Reconsider Order (ECF No. 209) by Defendants John Leach, Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow. ECF No. 212. Motion for District Judge to Reconsider Order (ECF No. 228) by Plaintiffs. ECF No. 231.
8. Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Ardiente Homeowners Association, ECF No. 255.
9. Motion to Reconsider Order (ECF No. 33) by Plaintiffs. ECF No. 293.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiffs in this case are Deborah and Michael Sanzaro. Plaintiffs' Complaint arises from three separate incidents from 2009 through 2011 wherein the Defendant Ardiente Homeowners Association (“the HOA”) denied Plaintiff Deborah Sanzaro and her alleged service animal, Angel, entry into the Ardiente clubhouse (“the HOA clubhouse”).

         In their most recent Complaint (ECF No. 78), Plaintiffs bring 102 causes of action for “discrimination against the disabled, breach of contract and other torts, ” including claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12182, and the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-19, and NRS 651.075, precluding places of public accommodation from refusing admittance to a person with a service animal.

         This Court previously dismissed Plaintiffs' suit, and judgment was entered in favor of Defendants on all claims. ECF No. 33. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part. ECF No. 55 at 2-4. As a result, the only remaining seven causes of action are those arising under or with reference to the FHA and ADA, including a claim under Nevada Revised Statute § 651.075. These causes of action are Claims 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12, and 71 and relate to three incidents that took place on March 11, 2009 (“Incident 1”), July 26, 2010 (“Incident 2”), and January 29, 2011 (“Incident 3”). The Court addresses each below.

         First, Plaintiffs bring an ADA discrimination claim against Defendants for preventing Deborah Sanzaro from entering the HOA clubhouse accompanied by Angel during all three Incidents. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants violated their rights under the ADA when Defendants: required proof that Angel was a service animal during all three Incidents; required proof of Deborah Sanzaro's disability during Incident 3; and required that Deborah Sanzaro produce a doctor's letter verifying Deborah Sanzaro's need for a service animal in order to enter the HOA club house.

         Second, Plaintiffs bring an FHA discrimination claim under what the Court understands to be a disparate impact theory and failure to provide reasonable accommodation to Deborah Sanzaro from entering the HOA clubhouse accompanied by Angel during all three Incidents. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated their rights under the FHA when they required proof that Angel was a service animal during all three Incidents, and when they required proof of Deborah Sanzaro's disability during Incident 3.

         Third, Plaintiffs bring an NRS 651.075 discrimination claim against Defendants for preventing Deborah Sanzaro from entering the HOA clubhouse accompanied by Angel during all three Incidents. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants violated their rights under the NRS 651.075 when Defendants: required proof that Angel was a service animal during all three Incidents; and required that Deborah Sanzaro produce a doctor's letter verifying Deborah Sanzaro's need for a service animal in order to enter the HOA club house.

         Last, Plaintiff asserts Claim 71 against the law firm Leach, Johnson, Song and Gruchow for failing to properly advise the HOA not to violate federal and state statutes such as the ADA, FHA, and NRS 650.050 to protect the disabled.

         Plaintiffs seek monetary relief as well as injunctive relief enjoining the Defendants from denying Deborah Sanzaro access to the clubhouse while accompanied by Angel, her alleged service animal.

         III. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint pro se on July 11, 2011 alleging 102 causes of action. ECF No. 1. On November 18, 2011, the Honorable Philip M. Pro granted Defendant Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow's Motion to Dismiss the case in its entirety. ECF No. 33. Plaintiffs appealed this decision. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated, and remanded this Order, reversing and remanded causes of action under the FHA and ADA. ECF No. 55. Plaintiffs refiled their Complaint on July 22, 2013. ECF No. 78.

         Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on November 21, 2013. ECF No. 92. The Court denied this Motion on May 23, 2014. ECF No. 115. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Reconsider this Order on June 2, 2014. ECF No. 118.

         Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Default Judgment on July 29, 2014. ECF No. 139.

         Plaintiff filed a “Motion to grant five orders, ” which the Court construes as a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on August 28, 2014. ECF No. 145.

         On October 16, 2014, Defendant J.F. Shea filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 154.

         On February 23, 2015, Defendants John Leach and Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow filed a Motion to Reconsider. ECF No. 212.

         Defendant J.F. Shea Co., Inc. filed a Motion to Amend/Correct re: Answer on March 25, 2015. ECF No. 223.

         Defendants John Leach and Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on March 25, 2015. ECF No. 225.

         Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Reconsider an Order (ECF No. 228) on April 20, 2015. ECF No. 231.

         On May 18, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion in limine. ECF No. 248.

         On June 1, 2015, Defendants HOA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 255.

         On September 30, 2015, the Court held a hearing regarding a number of outstanding motions and held the following:

1. The Court DENIED Plaintiffs' Motion to Reconsider Order ECF No. 115. ECF No. 118.
2. The Court DENIED Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment. ECF No. 139.
3. The Court GRANTED in part and DENIED in part Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. ECF No. 145.
4. The Court DENIED as moot Defendant John Leach and Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow's Motion to Reconsider. ECF No. 212.
5. The Court GRANTED Defendant J.F. Shea Co., Inc.'s Motion to Amend. ECF No. 223.
6. The Court GRANTED Defendants John Leach and Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 225.
7. The Court DENIED Plaintiffs' Motion to Reconsider Order ECF No. 228. ECF No. 231.

         The Court has indicated that it would issue its written opinion on these motions prior to trial. This case has been reset for trial on a few different occasions subsequent to the Court's ruling. As the trial is now set for January the Court issues its written opinion with regard to its previous oral and minute orders on the above motions.

         IV. FACTUAL FINDINGS

         For these motions, the Court makes the following factual findings.

         A. Undisputed Facts

         The Court finds the following facts to be undisputed. Plaintiffs Deborah and Michael Sanzaro are the owners of the property located at 3609 Inverness Grove Avenue, Las Vegas, NV APN # 123-30-312-011, located in the Ardiente development. The HOA clubhouse is located in this development and is accessible by Ardiente members and their guests.

         In March 2005, the Social Security Administration found Deborah Sanzaro became disabled on March 12, 2004, when she became unable to walk unassisted, and granted her disability benefits. Deborah Sanzaro requires the use of a walker and a leg brace, and she has chronic pain and reduced physical abilities. In October 2008, Deborah Sanzaro began searching for a dog to assist her with her pain levels and limited mobility. Plaintiffs soon thereafter acquired a Chihuahua dog (“Angel”).

         On March 11, 2009, Plaintiff Deborah Sanzaro entered the HOA with Angel. The manager requested documentation to confirm her disability and that the dog was a service animal. Plaintiff showed the manager a service dog patch attached to the handle of Angel's leash. The manager decided that Plaintiff had not produced the requested and required documentation. Plaintiff left the clubhouse and returned 30 minutes later with Angel. The manager called the HOA's security to the clubhouse to escort Plaintiff from the clubhouse.

         The HOA held an open hearing regarding Incident 1 on March 30, 2009 and invited Deborah Sanzaro to attend the hearing and present evidence of her disability and Angel's certification as a service animal. Deborah Sanzaro neither attended the hearing nor sent any documentation on her behalf. Counsel for the HOA mailed the results to Plaintiffs on April 9, 2009. The HOA issued a fine, but offered to retract the fine if Deborah Sanzaro either ceased bringing Angel into the clubhouse, or provided evidence showing that she is disabled and that Angel is necessary for Deborah Sanzaro to enjoy the clubhouse.

         On July 27, 2009, prior to Incidents 2 and 3, Plaintiffs sent the HOA's counsel copies of letters from the Social Security Administration and Deborah Sanzaro's physician stating that Deborah Sanzaro is disabled. Plaintiffs also sent a statement from another doctor stating 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.

         On July 26, 2010 a similar incident occurred when Plaintiff Deborah Sanzaro entered the clubhouse with Angel and was asked to provide documentation of Plaintiff's disability and Angel's training by the same manager. Plaintiff explained she was disabled and claimed her dog was a registered service animal trained to assist her with her disability. Plaintiff left and returned with her husband, Plaintiff Michael Sanzaro, who told the manager he had sent a letter explaining how Angel was a service animal trained to aid his wife with her disability. Plaintiffs refused to leave until an employee called the Police.

         On January 29, 2011, Plaintiffs attempted to enter the HOA clubhouse with Angel. The new community manager denied Plaintiffs access claiming the Plaintiffs had not provided documents proving Plaintiff's disability and that Angel was a service animal. Michael Sanzaro again explained the Angel was trained to assist his wife with her disabilities but Plaintiffs were not permitted entrance.

         The parties do not dispute that J.F. Shea Co., Inc. ever employed any board members of the HOA.

         B. Disputed Facts

         The parties dispute several key facts. First, they dispute whether Angel was a service animal trained to assist Plaintiff with her mobility-related disability at the time the three incidents took place at the HOA clubhouse. The parties dispute whether on March 10, 2009, the Plaintiff entered the clubhouse with Angel, explaining Angel's status as a service animal and Plaintiff's disability, ...


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