United States District Court, D. Idaho
ROBERT LAROSA, IVA LAROSA, and INTERMOUNTAIN FAIR HOUSING COUNCIL, INC., Plaintiffs,
RIVER QUARRY APARTMENTS, LLC, RAFANELLI & NAHAS MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, DEANNE PIRNIE, LAW OFFICES OF KIRK A. CULLIMORE, and KIRK CULLIMORE, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
filed this action in August 2018, alleging that defendants
violated their rights under the Fair Housing Act.
Plaintiffs' central allegation was that defendants
wrongfully denied Robert LaRosa's request for a
reasonable accommodation allowing his companion dog, Sid, to
live with him in his apartment. In March 2019, the Court
dismissed the complaint, reasoning that because Sid had lived
with the LaRosas during their entire tenancy at River Quarry
Apartments, there had been no FHA violation. See Mem.
Decision & Order, Dkt. 31.
plaintiffs have now filed an amended complaint. The amended
complaint names the same defendants - River Quarry
Apartments, LLC; Rafanelli & Nahas Management
Corporation; Deanne Pirnie; attorney Kirk A. Cullimore; and
the Law Offices of Kirk A. Cullimore. All defendants have
moved to dismiss the amended complaint. See Dkts.
33, 34. For the reasons explained below, the Court will again
dismiss plaintiffs' disparate treatment claim as well as
their claim that defendants denied their request for a
reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. The
Court will, however, allow plaintiffs' interference and
negligence claims to proceed.
reallege many of the same facts in their amended complaint.
Those facts will be described here, alongside the new factual
allegations. The Court will not, however, detail the new
allegations in the amended complaint that consist solely of
argument, legal conclusions, or quotations from the Joint
Statement issued by DOJ and HUD in this
section. See, e.g., Am. Compl., Dkt. 32,
¶¶ 15-18, 34, 43, 46, 57, 64.
factual allegations in the amended complaint fall into three
main categories: (1) allegations related to Mr. LaRosa's
efforts to obtain a reasonable accommodation at River Quarry
Apartments; (2) allegations related to plaintiff
Intermountain Fair Housing Council (IHFC) testers; and (3)
allegations related to attorney defendant Kirk
Cullimore's legal practice.
Allegations Related to the LaRosas
August 30, 2017, Plaintiffs Robert and Iva LaRosa applied to
live at River Quarry Apartments. Am. Compl., Dkt.
32, ¶ 39. River Quarry typically charges additional fees
for residents who own dogs, but the LaRosas requested a
reasonable accommodation to keep their dog, Sid, without
paying the fee. Id. ¶ 40. The LaRosas provided
River Quarry with a copy of a September 2016 note from a
nurse practitioner, stating: “Please allow Mr. Larosa
(sic) to have a companion dog with him to help manage his
post-traumatic stress disorder.” Id.
¶¶ 34, 40.
a week later, on September 7, 2017, the LaRosas received an
email from River Quarry management approving their residence
application. Id. ¶ 41. Regarding the reasonable
accommodation request for Sid, the email said, “We
still need to process the approval of approving (sic) your
assistance animal.” Id. The email further
instructed the LaRosas to complete two forms entitled (1)
“Animal Identification Form, ” and (2)
“Resident's Request for Assistance Animal.”
Id. ¶¶ 41-42. The second form requested
information about “the anticipated length of the
disability.” Id. ¶ 43. Both documents
included a logo and copyright symbol for “The Law
Offices of Kirk A. Cullimore.” Id. ¶ 42.
same day they received the forms, the LaRosas completed and
returned them to River Quarry. Id. ¶ 44. They
again submitted the 2016 nurse practitioner note which said:
“Please allow Mr. Larosa (sic) to have a companion dog
with him to help manage his post-traumatic stress
disorder.” Id. ¶¶ 34, 44. On one of
the forms, Mr. LaRosa identified his primary care physician
as Dr. Andrew Wilper at the Boise Veterans Affairs Medical
Center (VAMC). Id. ¶ 44. River Quarry then
asked Mr. LaRosa to have Dr. Wilper complete a third form,
titled “Verification for Assistance Animal.”
Id. ¶ 45. This form also included a logo and
copyright symbol for “The Law Offices of Kirk A.
Cullimore.” Id. Dr. Wilper did not initially
complete the form; instead, on September 12, he wrote a
letter to the LaRosas bearing his digital signature, which
I attest that you have been under my care since October 2016
to the present. I am familiar with your history and with the
functional and coping limitations imposed by your
emotional/mental health-related issues. In my opinion, an
emotional support animal may help mitigate the symptoms you
are currently experiencing.
Id. ¶ 46. The LaRosas provided Dr. Wilper's
letter to River Quarry on the same day. Id. One week
later, on September 19, the LaRosas moved into River Quarry
with Sid. Id. ¶ 47.
between September 12 and September 27, Mr. Cullimore called
Dr. Wilper's secretary, Kimberly Barker. Am.
Compl., Dkt. 32, ¶ 50. Mr. Cullimore asked to speak
directly to Dr. Wilper about Mr. LaRosa's request for a
reasonable accommodation. Id. Ms. Barker declined to
speak to Mr. Cullimore further without a release form signed
by Mr. LaRosa. Id. On September 27, defendant Dianne
Pirnie, manager at River Quarry, wrote this letter to the
We contacted your doctor at the VA. He refused to verify the
information. They refused to even state that the letter was
authentic. They stated that you, the patient, needed to
provide them with further documentation and releases to
provide the verification.
As a consequence, we cannot yet approve your request for an
assistance animal. You will need to contact your doctor at
the VA and provide them with them (sic) information and
documentation necessary for them to not only confirm the need
for the animal but to discuss the letter and verify it with
Id. ¶ 51.
LaRosa signed a release form on September 28 authorizing VA
representatives to speak to “Kirk Cullimore” for
the purpose of “discuss[ing] 9/12/17 letter written by
Dr. Wilper regarding Assistive (sic) Animal.”
Id. ¶ 55.
October 2, Mr. Cullimore spoke with Dr. Wilper by telephone.
Id. ¶ 56. Plaintiffs describe the salient
points of that call as follows:
• “Mr. Cullimore told Dr. Wilper that, in Mr.
Cullimore's opinion, Dr. Wilper's letter was
“contradictory” because it did not clearly
distinguish whether the dog was a support animal or a service
animal.” Id. (footnote omitted). Plaintiffs
allege that Mr. Cullimore raised this topic to confuse Dr.
Wilper, or to “intimidate Dr. Wilper into withdrawing
his medical verification.” Id.
• During the call, “Mr. Cullimore also asked Dr.
Wilper about Mr. LaRosa's diagnosis. Dr. Wilper did not
disclose the diagnosis, but he confirmed that Mr. LaRosa was
a person with a disability. Mr. Cullimore asked Dr. Wilper
how long Dr. Wilper had been treating Mr. LaRosa, and when
Mr. Larosa got the dog.” Id. ¶ 57.
Plaintiffs say Mr. Cullimore asked these particular questions
“to force Dr. Wilper to spend additional time reviewing
his medical records or meeting with Mr. LaRosa, and
ultimately discourage or delay Dr. Wilper in confirming his
medical verification, and more broadly, to cause Dr. Wilper
to refrain from assisting people with disabilities in
requesting reasonable accommodations in the future, including
those who need an assistive animal in their housing.”
Id. ¶ 58.
• In response to Mr. Cullimore's inquiries,
“Dr. Wilper told Mr. Cullimore that he would follow up
with Mr. Cullimore after Mr. LaRosa's appointment on
October 4, 2017. Because Dr. Wilper is the chief of staff at
the VAMC and was very busy, Dr. Wilper told Mr. Cullimore to
expect a delay.” Id. ¶ 59.
following day, October 3, Ms. Pirnie wrote a letter to Mr.
LaRosa which read:
We have been diligently attempting to resolve your request
for an Assistance Animal. As you know, we have been in
contact with your medical provider and he requested more
information from you.
Our most recent discussion with him has determined that you
do not qualify under the Fair Housing Act for this
accommodation. This determination was made by your medical
provider. Because the letter he sent was vague, we contacted
him to clarify the information. When given the two prong test
requirements (that you must be handicapped as defined by the
Fair Housing Act and there is a nexus between the handicap
and the need for the animal), your medical provider declined
to verify that you met the necessary standard.
As a consequence, we cannot grant the requested
accommodation. If we can further assist you, please let us
As you know we do allow pets. You can come into the office
and apply to have a pet addendum that would allow you to peek
(sic) an approved animal. Of course, there are fees, deposits
and rent that will be required for a pet.
Id. ¶ 60.
next day, October 4, Mr. LaRosa had an appointment with Dr.
Wilper. Id. ¶ 62. At the appointment, Dr.
Wilper completed and signed the “Verification for
Assistance Animal” form that River Quarry had provided
to Mr. LaRosa on September 4. Id. The LaRosas
returned the form to Ms. Pirnie the same day. Id.
Ms. Pirnie acted surprised to ...