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Morris v. West Hayden Estates First Addition Homeowners Association, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 24, 2017

MR. JEREMY MORRIS and MRS. KRISTY MORRIS, Plaintiffs,
v.
WEST HAYDEN ESTATES FIRST ADDITION HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 5). The motion is fully briefed and before the Court, and the Court finds this matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the Motion in part and deny in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Jeremy and Kristy Morris filed this housing discrimination lawsuit against Defendant West Hayden Estates First Addition Homeowners' Association, Inc. (HOA) alleging that the HOA discriminated against them on the basis of their religion, in violation of state and federal law. The Morrises are Christian, and they host an annual Christmas fundraiser at their home. Complaint ¶ 10, Dkt. 1. In December, 2014, they entered into a contract for the purchase of a home in the West Hayden Estates subdivision which they believed would be suitable for hosting this annual event. Id. ¶ 12.

         Shortly after entering into the contract, but prior to their purchase, the Morrises reached out to the West Hayden Estates First Addition Homeowners Association, Inc. (HOA) to notify them about both their intent to buy a home within the subdivision, as well as to hold a Christmas fundraiser at the new home. Id. ¶¶ 12, 13. On or about January 15, 2015[1], the HOA sent a letter to inform the Morrises that they believed that the fundraiser would violate certain provisions of the Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions and Easements for West Hayden Estates First Addition (CCRs). Id. ¶ 17. The HOA also said that they knew that some members of the community were not Christian, and that they were concerned that the fundraiser might create an issue with those residents. Id. at Ex. 2.The HOA then sent out a letter to the other residents of the community, to inform them of the Morrises' plans for a Christmas fundraiser, and held a meeting for the members of the community to discuss those plans. Id. ¶¶ 20, 24. The Morrises sent out a letter in response to the HOA's letter. Id. ¶ 23.

         The Morrises purchased their new home on March 20, 2015. Id. ¶ 25. A few months later, on October 27, 2015, the HOA sent a letter to the Morrises informing them that proceeding with the Christmas fundraiser would result in the HOA taking legal action. Id. ¶ 26. The Morrises proceeded with their purchase, but the HOA did not ultimately file a lawsuit. Id.

         The Morrises allege that, from the first fundraiser on, the HOA waged a war of harassment against them by encouraging members of the HOA to engage in harassing behaviors, such as threatening the Morrises on the street, threatening them on Facebook, and interfering with the Christmas fundraiser. Id. ¶¶ 29, 31, 34, 35. According to the Morrises, this caused them a great deal of emotional distress. Id. ¶ 47, Prayer for Relief ¶ 2.

         The Morrises claim that, even before they purchased their home, the HOA admitted that they were discriminating against the Morrises because of their religion. Id. ¶ 18. The Morrises also claim that the HOA admitted that complaining about the fundraiser was pretextual, and that the HOA intentionally discriminated against the Morrises on the basis of their religion. Id. ¶¶ 18, 19, 21, 32, 33.

         The Morrises filed this action on January 13, 2017, under the Idaho Human Rights Act and the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). Complaint, Dkt. 1. The HOA's Motion to Dismiss was filed shortly thereafter.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant 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). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must set forth “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. at 556. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'” Id. at 557.

         The Supreme Court identified two “working principles” that underlie Twombly in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). First, the court need not accept as true, legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Id. Rule 8 does not “unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678- 79. Second, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. ‚ÄúDetermining whether a complaint states a plausible ...


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