United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
BARRY FISCHER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court in this matter is Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. (Docket No. 5). Having
considered Plaintiffs' Complaint, (Docket No. 1);
Defendants' motion to dismiss and supporting briefing,
(Docket Nos. 5, 7); Plaintiff's response in opposition,
(Docket No. 8); and Defendants' reply, wherein Defendants
rest upon their initial brief, (Docket No. 13),
Defendants' motion to dismiss is DENIED.
matter arises from Plaintiff's residence at Fifth Neville
Apartments (“Fifth Neville”). The following
pertinent facts are alleged in the Complaint, which the Court
will accept as true for the sole purpose of deciding the
who is twenty-two years old, has been diagnosed with a
general anxiety disorder. (Docket No. 1 at ¶ 3). As a
result, Plaintiff experiences excessive anxiety and
difficulty regulating her emotions. (Id.). In 2012,
Plaintiff relocated to Pittsburgh from Ohio and resided with
her fiancé at Fifth Neville, which has a no-pet policy
and is managed by Defendant Amore Limited Partnership d/b/a
Amore Management Company (“Amore”). (Id.
at ¶¶ 9-10). After moving to Pittsburgh, Plaintiff
received treatment from Antoinette Montgomery, a Licensed
Marriage and Family Therapist. (Id. at ¶ 11).
In December 2015, Ms. Montgomery prepared a letter verifying
that Plaintiff qualified as a person with a disability under
the Fair Housing Act and stating that “an emotional
support animal will significantly help in alleviating [her]
symptoms and will enhance her ability to live
independently.” (Id. at ¶ 12). Plaintiff
provided Amore with Ms. Montgomery's letter and requested
permission for an emotional support dog to live with her at
Fifth Neville. (Id. at ¶ 13). In a letter dated
January 4, 2016, Amore requested that Ms. Montgomery provide
additional information by completing an enclosed form.
(Id. at ¶ 14). Ms. Montgomery completed the
form and attached a letter further detailing the nature of
Plaintiff's disability. (Id. at ¶¶
letter dated February 10, 2016, Amore denied Plaintiff's
request, stating that she had failed to demonstrate that the
“emotional impediments and environmental stressors
impacting on [her] are not or cannot be adequately addressed
based upon the existence of [her] relationship with her
significant other with whom [she is] living.”
(Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff forwarded an e-mail
from Ms. Montgomery to Amore in which Ms. Montgomery stated
that Plaintiff's living arrangement with her
fiancé was irrelevant to her need for an emotional
support animal. (Id. at ¶ 19). On March 21,
2016, a second medical professional, Jennifer Melegari, CNP
of Union Physician Services, sent a letter to Amore in which
she verified Plaintiff's disability and stated that she
had prescribed an emotional support animal. (Id. at
¶ 20). On April 7, 2016 and May 25, 2016, Ms. Melegari
responded to Amore's requests for additional information.
(Id. at ¶¶ 21-23). As a result of
Amore's denial of Plaintiff's request, the emotional
support dog lived with Plaintiff's mother in Ohio from
December 2015 to June 2016. (Id. at ¶ 25). In
June 2016, Plaintiff moved to Lindenbrooke, a different
property managed by Amore, which permits pets. (Id.
at ¶ 27). Because Amore has not approved Plaintiff's
request, her emotional support dog is considered an ordinary
pet and is prohibited from accompanying Plaintiff in the
common areas at Lindenbrooke. (Id. at ¶ 28).
further alleges that through an audit test conducted in
November 2014, the Fair Housing Partnership
(“FHP”) was made aware of Amore's
discriminatory policies regarding requests for emotional
support animals. (Id. at ¶ 32). FHP conducted a
series of controlled tests through which testers contacted
Amore's properties seeking to rent a unit as a person
with an emotional support dog and as a person without one.
(Id. at ¶ 33). FHP found that when testers
requested an emotional support dog, the property manager
contacted Amore's corporate office, which would decline
the request. (Id. at ¶ 34). In July 2015, FHP
conducted additional audit testing which showed that Amore
masked its practice of denying emotional support dogs by
initially granting reasonable accommodation requests but
requiring approval by the corporate office. (Id. at
¶ 35). On February 13, 2016, Plaintiff contacted FHP
regarding Amore's denial of her request for an emotional
support dog. (Id. at ¶ 36). FHP's testing
of Fifth Neville revealed that Amore's policy is for a
housing application to be approved by its corporate office
before a reasonable accommodation can be requested.
(Id. at ¶ 37).
filed this action on September 23, 2016, alleging a claim
against Defendants under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1968 for the violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 3604(f)(2) and 3604(f)(3)(B). (Id. at
¶¶ 41-42). Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for
Lack of Jurisdiction and supporting brief on November 16,
2016. (Docket Nos. 5, 7). Plaintiff filed her Brief in
Opposition to Defendants' Motion on December 7, 2016.
(Docket No. 8). Defendants filed a Reply Brief, wherein they
rest upon their initial brief, on January 4, 2017. (Docket
No. 13). This matter is now ripe for disposition.
reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must “‘accept
all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine
whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the
plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Eid v.
Thompson, 740 F.3d 118, 122 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting
Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233
(3d Cir. 2008)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge, the
plaintiff's “‘[f]actual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “Thus,
‘only a complaint that states a plausible claim for
relief survives a motion to dismiss.'” Id.
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as
true, “‘[it is] not compelled to accept
unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or a
legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'”
Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013)
(quoting Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d
Cir. 2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Instead, the plaintiff
must plead facts which permit the court to make a reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556-57; Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
with these principles, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has
prescribed a three-step analysis for purposes of determining
whether a claim is plausible. First, the court should
“outline the elements a plaintiff must plead to a state
a claim for relief.” Bistrian v. Levi, 696
F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012). Second, the court should
“peel away” legal conclusions that are not
entitled to the assumption of truth. Id.; see
also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (“While legal
conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they
must be supported by factual allegations.”). Third, the
court should assume the veracity of all well-pled factual
allegations and then “‘determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'”
Bistrian, 696 F.3d at 365 (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679). This third step of the analysis is
“‘a context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679).