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Manus A. Edwards v. Lake Terrace Condominium Association

April 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER This is an action for discrimination on the basis of race and age under § 3604 of the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"). 42 U.S.C. § 3604. Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Count IV of Plaintiff's operative complaint (which alleges discrimination on the basis of race and age) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, Defendant's motion to dismiss [32] is granted.

I. Background*fn1

Pro se Plaintiff Manus Edwards*fn2 lives at the Lake Terrace Apartment complex, located at 7337 S. South Shore Drive, in Chicago. ¶ 1. Plaintiff is African American and "over 40 years old." (Pl. Resp. [33] at 2). According to Plaintiff, his apartment complex contains 356 units and 280 parking stalls. ¶ 6. Residents of the building include both renters and individuals who live in condominiums that they own themselves. ¶ 7. The complaint alleges that 99% of the residents of the building are African American. ¶ 6. While 75% of the condo owners are Caucasian, most of them rent their condos to African American tenants. ¶ 6. The remaining 25% of condo owners are African Americans who reside in the building. Id.

The building has a parking facility on the premises. ¶ 9. When Plaintiff moved in, the complex had a parking system that was part self-parking, and part valet parking. Id. This system had a "35 year history." Id. On April 15, 2010, Lake Terrace*fn3 informed its residents that it would no longer provide valet parking and that residents would have to park their cars themselves. Id.; see also (Pl. Resp. at 4). The change in policy was the result of a vote by the condominium association board of directors. Id.

Plaintiff and some other tenants attempted to air their grievances with Lake Terrace at an association meeting on May 3, 2010. ¶ 11. "[S]ome tenants, including owners and renters, were locked out of that meeting without having any input of these present matters." Id.

II. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint first

("corporations cannot appear pro se, and one pro se litigant cannot represent another") (citations omitted). If the Tenant's Association wishes to be added as a Plaintiff to this action, it must retain counsel to represent it. Id. must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 569 n.14). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562. The Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005). The trial court must "give liberal construction to a pro se plaintiff's pleadings," Caruth v. Pinkney, 683 F.2d 1044, 1050 (7th Cir. 1982), which the Court endeavored to do here.

III. Analysis

As an initial matter, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's complaint is deficient because it names the "Lake Terrace Condominium Association, Board of Directors" as the Defendant. (Def. Mem. [32] at 4-5). Under Illinois law, a corporation's board of directors is not a legal entity separate and distinct from the corporation itself, and thus is not amenable to suit. See, e.g. Willmschen v. Trinity Lakes Improvement Ass'n, 840 N.E.2d 1275, 1280 (Ill. App. Ct. 2nd Dist. 2005) (dismissing claim alleged against homeowners' association board of directors). The Court agrees that this is an independent ground for dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint. However, for purposes of providing a full analysis of the claims asserted in Plaintiff's complaint, the Court will proceed under the assumption that Plaintiff intended to sue the Lake Terrace Condominium Association and not its governing board of directors.

Plaintiff's complaint does not clearly identify which specific provisions of the FHA he believes Defendant violated. The complaint focuses the Court on "42 U.S.C. section 3604 and section 3604(3)(B)" ¶ 25. In his response ([33] at 6-9), Plaintiff clarifies that he alleges that Defendant violated Sections 3604(a) and 3604(b) of the statute. Further, Section C of Plaintiff's response is based on a purported violation of Section 3604(f)(3)(B).

"The Fair Housing Act is concerned with both the furtherance of equal housing opportunity and the elimination of segregated housing." South-Suburban Housing Center v. Greater South Suburban Bd. Of Realtors, 935 F.2d 868, 882 (7th Cir. 1991) (citing Southend Neighborhood Improvement Association v. County of St. Clair, 743 F.2d 1207, 1209-10 (7th Cir. 1984)). Section 3604(a) makes it unlawful "[t]o refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin." Section 3604(b) makes it unlawful "[t]o discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin." Section 3604(f) makes it unlawful "[t]o discriminate in the sale or rental, or to otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of a handicap * * *." Section 3604(f)(3)(B)-the statutory language on which Plaintiff bases his third FHA theory-is not an operative prohibition of discrimination; rather, that subsection defines discrimination for the purpose of subsection (f). See § 3604(f)(3) ("For purposes of this subsection, discrimination includes-[* * *] (B) a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling."

Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim for violation of any of these provisions of the FHA both because Plaintiff has failed to allege that he suffered an injury within the meaning of the statute and because Plaintiff has failed to adequately allege that Defendant discriminated against him. Furthermore, to the extent Plaintiff intended to allege that he was discriminated ...

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