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Dettmer v. Tonsager

United States District Court, D. Wyoming

April 17, 2014

MICHAEL L. DETTMER. Plaintiff.
v.
DALLAS TONSAGER. United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development, et al, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ALAN B. JOHNSON, District Judge.

This case arises from the denial of plaintiff's rental application.Proceeding pro se, he filed a complaint alleging that several public and private defendants violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The remaining private defendants have submitted a motion for summary judgment arguing that plaintiff was not qualified to rent an apartment, and, therefore, he has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

On March 18, 2010, Plaintiff Michael L. Dettmer ("Dettmer") submitted a housing rental application to Defendant Aspen Creek Apartments ("Aspen Creek") in Jackson, Wyoming. [ECF No. 66-1 at 3]. Dettmer's housing application indicated that he had previously filed for bankruptcy and that he had been evicted from a previous residence. Id. He did not provide any information for previous landlords in his application. [ Id. ; ECF No. 66-2 at 2].

Dettmer was placed on Aspen Creek's waiting list on April 30, 2010. [ECF No. 66-2 at 1]. Upon review of his application, a determination was made that Dettmer was ineligible for housing at Aspen Creek because he failed to meet the management selection criteria. Id. at 2. Aspen Creek's management selection criteria includes receiving favorable references from an applicant's two most recent landlords. Id. If an applicant had not rented for five years, Aspen Creek would accept two personal references, other than friends or relatives, who could provide the manager with the same sort of information that is typically asked of a previous landlord. Id. Dettmer did not list any previous landlords on his application, and the three personal references he did provide were all identified as friends. Id.

Dettmer was notified via a letter dated September 16, 2010 that he had been removed from Aspen Creek's waiting list. [ECF No. 66-1 at 3; ECF No. 66-2 at 2]. Via a letter dated October 28, 2010, Dettmer requested that Aspen Creek grant him reasonable accommodations by ignoring his previous eviction and his bankruptcy. [ECF No. 66-1 at 4]. His requests were denied because he failed to provide sufficient evidence that the accommodations were necessary due to his disability. He also failed to identify the relationship or nexus between the requested accommodations and his disability. [ECF No. 66-2 at 2]. During his deposition, Dettmer admitted he is aware that eligibility for residency at Aspen Creek was based on applicable income limits and management selection criteria. [ECF No. 66-1 at 6]. He also admitted that he was removed from Aspen Creek's waiting list because of his prior eviction. Id.

Proceeding pro se, Mr. Dettmer initiated this case by filing his Complaint on September 10, 2012. [ECF No. 1]. In it, he sued Defendants Syringa Property Management, Inc., Aspen Creek Apartments, Diane Hunt, Greg Luce, Brian Howard, Gary Machacek, Pat Machacek, Machacek Real Estate Holding Company, LLC, and several federal agencies and employees for violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Id. The federal agencies and employees were dismissed from this case via a previous order. [ECF No. 56].

The remaining defendants have now submitted a Motion for Summary Judgment on all of Dettmer's claims against them. [ECF No. 65]. Dettmer did not initially respond to the instant motion. After the time for a responsive memorandum had passed, Defendants' filed a Notice of Non-Response. [ECF No. 68]. Shortly thereafter, Dettmer filed an Objection to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Objection"), but he has submitted no evidence or other facts in his Objection or via another filing to support his claims. [ECF No. 69].

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute of fact is genuine if a reasonable juror could resolve the disputed fact in favor of either side. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is material if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). When the Court considers the evidence presented by the parties, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in the non-movant's favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of establishing the nonexistence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Lynch v. Barrett, 703 F.3d 1153, 1158 (10th Cir. 2013). The moving party can satisfy this burden by either (1) offering affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim, or (2) demonstrating that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(13).

Once the moving party satisfies this initial burden, the nonmoving party must support its contention that a genuine dispute of material fact exists either by (1) citing to particular materials in the record, or (2) showing that the materials cited by the moving party do not establish the absence of a genuine dispute. See id The nonmoving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, to survive a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Further, when opposing summary judgment, the nonmoving party cannot rest on allegations or denials in the pleadings but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute of material fact for trial. See Travis v. Park City Mun. Corp., 565 F.3d 1252, 1258 (10th Cir. 2009).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to weigh the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility ...


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