The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn WinmillChief JudgeUnited States District Court
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTIONS IN LIMINE (Dkts. 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 101)
Before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motions in Limine to: Prevent Argument and Evidence that Plaintiffs had a Duty to Request an Accommodation After Boise County Entered its Decision (Dkt. 95); Preclude Evidence of Proposed Federal Legislation (Dkt.
96); to Preclude Argument and Evidence of Illegal Considerations (Dkt. 97); Preclude Argument and Evidence that Conditions were Reasonable Because Alamar Ranch was a Commercial Development (Dkt. 98); Preclude Argument and Evidence that RTC's are Dangerous (Dkt. 99); and Prohibit Opinion of William Reynolds and Any Argument Concerning the Motives of the Wilderness Ranch First District for Approving the Alamar Ranch Development (Dkt. 101). The motions have been fully briefed and the Court enters the following orders.
1. Plaintiffs' Motion to Prevent Argument and Evidence that Plaintiffs had a Duty to Request an Accommodation After Boise County Entered its Decision Plaintiffs seek to prevent any argument or evidence that Plaintiffs had a duty to request a reasonable accommodation after Boise County entered its order denying Plaintiffs' Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application. Plaintiffs argue that the question of who had the duty is a legal question inappropriate for the jury and that the law does not support Defendant's position that the duty fell on Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs maintain that the duty fell on Defendant to engage in an interactive process about the accommodation needed.
Defendant responds that any request for a reasonable accommodation must be made with particularity and that Plaintiffs failed to do so. Defendant further argues that Plaintiffs are essentially asking the Court to rule, as a matter of law, that Plaintiffs properly requested a reasonable accommodation.
To establish discrimination from a defendant's failure to reasonably accommodate, a plaintiff must show that: (1) the residents of a facility at issue suffer from a handicap as defined by the FHA; (2) defendant knew or reasonably should have known of the handicap; (3) an accommodation may be necessary in order to afford residents an equal opportunity to the use and enjoyment of the dwelling; and (4) defendant refused to make the accommodation. F.G. Budnick v. Town of Carefree, 518 F.3d 1109, 1119 (9th Cir. 2008).
The Ninth Circuit requires the party from whom accommodation is sought to engage in an "interactive process" triggered by notice of disability and desire for accommodation. Vinson v. Thomas, 288 F.3d 1145, 1154 (9th Cir. 2002) (discussing the mandatory interactive process in the employment discrimination context), Barnett v. U.S. Air., Inc., 228 F.3d 1105, 1114 (9th Cir. 2000) (same). The purpose of the process is to clarify individual needs and identify appropriate accommodation. See Vison, 288 F.3d at 1154. The process involves meeting with the party who requests an accommodation, requesting information about the condition and limitations, asking about the specific request, showing some signs of considering the request, and discussing available alternatives if the request is too burdensome. See Barnett, 228 F.3d at 1115.
Plaintiffs argue that the law is clear that Defendant was required to engage in the interactive process because Plaintiffs notified Defendant of the disabled status of the residents and the need for accommodation in the CUP application and during the hearing, and the Board acknowledged the need on several occasions. Plaintiffs allege that they requested accommodation in the form of a "change, waiver or exception" for each failed CUP criteria.
However, by seeking to prohibit argument that Plaintiffs were required to request accommodation after the CUP denial, Plaintiffs ask the Court to assume, and therefore essentially rule, that the facts establish that Plaintiffs sufficiently requested an accommodation.
As Defendant points out, Barnett and Vinson involved the triggering of the interactive process after a specific accommodation requested by the employee, not just a general request that he be accommodated. In contrast, Plaintiffs do not indicate what specific accommodation they requested other than a general request for an exception or waiver for each criterion they failed on the application. They do not indicate what change, waiver, or exception they sought, except for approval of the application as submitted. Plaintiffs argue that Defendant knew that the project depended on the number of beds permitted, but do not claim that they informed the Board of the number of beds necessary for the project apart from the number originally requested. And the Court cannot hold that the application itself constitutes, as a matter of law, a request for reasonable accommodation that triggered a duty to engage in an interactive process. See Budnick, 518 F.3d at 1119.
The Court previously decided that neither party had shown an entitlement to summary judgment regarding reasonable accommodation because the facts in that regard were in dispute. See Order, Dkt. 79 at 11-13. The Court cannot rule at this time that the same facts support a decision, as a matter of law, that Plaintiffs sufficiently requested accommodation.
Plaintiffs also seek to prohibit Defendant from arguing that Plaintiffs had a duty to request an accommodation, in the form of appealing the Board's decision or otherwise requesting the Board approve more beds to make the project financially viable, after the Board made its decision on the CUP. In support of their request, Plaintiffs argue that the FHA is violated when the plaintiff is first denied a reasonable accommodation, irrespective of any administrative remedies that may be granted after the denial. See Bryant Woods Inn, Inc v. Howard Co. Maryland, 124 F.3d 597, 602 (4th Cir. 1997); Tsombanidis v. West Haven Fire Dep't., 352 565, 579 (2d Cir. 2003). This argument assumes that the Board's decision on the CUP constituted the denial of a reasonable accommodation that Plaintiffs had already requested. Plaintiffs argue that they requested an accommodation at the hearing, and that Defendant was well aware of the need for accommodation. But the Court is still unwilling to rule that, as a matter of law, the facts establish that Plaintiffs successfully requested a reasonable accommodation and that the Board's decision constituted the denial of the request.
Ultimately, it is the Plaintiffs' burden to prove a violation of the Fair Housing Act due to Defendant's failure to reasonably accommodate. The Court has already held that Plaintiffs have not yet satisfied their burden on the claim. See Order, Dkt. 79 at 13. Therefore, the Court will not limit Defendant's potential arguments regarding whether Plaintiffs have satisfied their burden at this stage of the case.
For these reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiffs' Motion on this ground, but will allow Plaintiffs to ...