United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
CASSANDRA ALEXANDER, Individually and as Next Friend of her Minor Child, A.A., Plaintiff,
LEXINGTON ASSOCIATES II, L.P., et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION OF DEFENDANT LEXINGTON
ASSOCIATES II, L.P. TO DISMISS
DANIEL BREEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
complaint in this matter was brought on November 6, 2018, by
the Plaintiff, Cassandra Alexander, individually and as next
friend of her minor child, A.A., against the Defendants,
Lexington Associates II, L.P. (“Lexington”);
Volunteer Management and Development, Inc. (“Volunteer
Management”); Shelia Clark; and Casey Triplett,
alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42
U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. (the “FHA”).
(Docket Entry (“D.E.”) 1.) Before the Court is
Lexington's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims
against it pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. (D.E. 30.)
rule authorizes dismissal of claims against a defendant for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). 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.” Kanuszewski v. Mich.
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 927 F.3d 396,
412 (6th Cir. 2019) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In
ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court is to
“[a]ccept all allegations in the complaint as true,
and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff[‘s]
favor.” In re: Fifth Third Early Access Cash
Advance Litig., 925 F.3d 265, 276 (6th Cir. 2019).
Dismissal is appropriate “when no set of facts exists
which would entitle the plaintiff to recover” against a
particular defendant. Johnson v. Equity Title &
Escrow Co. of Memphis, LLC, 476 F.Supp.2d 873, 876 (W.D.
to her pleading, Alexander resided with her minor son at the
Hill Crest Place Apartments in Lexington, Tennessee, a
complex owned by Lexington and managed by Volunteer
Management. At that time, she benefitted from a subsidy
provided by the United States Department of Agriculture. The
Plaintiff alleges that she suffers from a mental disability.
Prior to moving into the complex in May 2016, she had been
prescribed an assistive animal, a dog named Bonnie, and
informed Defendant Clark, who at the time was the on-site
property manager and agent of Volunteer Management, of that
fact. After completing the required reasonable accommodation
form and presenting it to Clark, Alexander was granted verbal
approval to have the animal in her apartment, with the caveat
that it could not exceed forty pounds or be an aggressive
early June 2016, Clark approached the Plaintiff and
instructed her to remove the dog, as it “looked too
much like a pit bull.” (D.E. 1 at PageID 4.) She
complied, but discovered she could not live without an
assistive animal. Consequently, Alexander selected another
dog, a Boston Terrier/Chihuahua mix named Rebel. Because she
had previously been granted permission to have . an assistive
animal on the premises, she did not seek separate approval
for Rebel. On June 27, 2016, Clark became aware of the
dog's presence and issued a lease violation notice to the
Plaintiff for having an “unauthorized pet.”
(Id. at PageID 5.) Clark advised Alexander that, in
order to keep the dog, she would have to submit a new
reasonable accommodation form, which she did.
22, 2016, Clark was replaced as property manager by Defendant
Triplett. The new manager began targeting the Plaintiff for
harassment by continually issuing baseless lease violation
notices, peering into her vehicle while it was parked, and
taking photographs of her while she was off the apartment
property with her minor child and his father. On August 28,
2016, she was served with a thirty-day notice to vacate her
apartment for alleged violations including the presence of an
unauthorized person in her unit, complaints by other tenants,
and having an unauthorized pet. The following day, Triplett
called animal control while Alexander was away and had Rebel
removed from the premises on the grounds that he had been
left in the apartment alone for several days. Alexander also
alleges that her unit was entered and ransacked during her
move by apartment complex staffers at Triplett's
prohibits discrimination against any person because of a
handicap with respect to the rental of a dwelling. 42 U.S.C.
§ 3604(f)(2)(A); Bank of Am. Corp. v. City of Miami,
Fla., 137 S.Ct. 1296, 1306-07 (2017). Discrimination
includes “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations
in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such
accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal
opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 3604(f)(3)(B). It is also unlawful “to coerce,
intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the
exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of [her] having
exercised or enjoyed, . . . any right granted or protected by
section . . . 3604 . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
only allegation in the complaint directed specifically at
Lexington is that it owns Hill Crest Place Apartments. (D.E.
1 ¶ 7.) It is Lexington's assertion in its motion to
dismiss that this allegation is in itself insufficient to
is well established that the [FHA] provides for vicarious
liability.” Meyer v. Holley, 537 U.S. 280, 285
(2003). The United States Supreme Court “has assumed
that, when Congress creates a tort action, it legislates
against a legal background of ordinary tort-related vicarious
liability rules and consequently intends its legislation to
incorporate those rules.” Id. “It is
[also] well established that traditional vicarious liability
rules ordinarily make principals or employers vicariously
liable for acts of their agents or employees in the scope of
their authority or employment.” Id.
Plaintiff has made no allegation whatever that an agency or
employment relationship exists between Lexington and the
remaining Defendants. Thus, it is the opinion of the Court
that she has fallen short of pleading plausible facts to
establish a basis for vicarious liability. Dismissal of the
claims against Lexington is therefore warranted. See West
v. DJ Mortg., LLC, 271 F.Supp.3d 1336, 1355 (N.D.Ga.
2017) (in suits under the FHA, “[t]raditional rules