The opinion of the court was delivered by: BASSLER
Defendant, Woodhaven Condominium Association, Inc. (the "Association"), moves for summary judgment dismissing the Complaint in this action. The Plaintiff, Albert Gittleman ("Mr. Gittleman"), has not submitted opposition to this motion despite the Court's invitation to do so. (See Letter Dated July 22, 1997 From William G. Bassler, U.S.D.J. to Anthony J. Brady, Esq., Plaintiff's counsel). The Court's jurisdiction is pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3613(a) ("Fair Housing Amendments Act" or "FHAA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question) and 28 U.S.C. § 1367 (pendent jurisdiction). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the Association's motion.
The Association is a nonprofit corporation organized under New Jersey law for the administration and management of the Woodhaven Condominium (the "Condominium") pursuant to the New Jersey Condominium Act (the "Condominium Act"), N.J.S.A. 46:8B-1 et seq. (Complaint P 2). Mr. Gittleman is a unit owner in the Condominium. (Complaint P 2). The Condominium contains 120 units. (Master Deed at 2). Mr. Gittleman allegedly suffers from a handicap as that term is defined in the FHAA and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD").
In January 1997, Mr. Gittleman requested exclusive use of a parking space to accommodate his alleged handicap. (Defendant's Brief at 1); (Complaint P 5). The Association rejected Mr. Gittleman's request. (Complaint P 6).
According to the unsworn assertions of the Association's counsel, the Association's refusal was based in reliance upon Paragraph 6(c) of the Condominium's Master Deed, which provides, in pertinent part:
The parking spaces within the lands described in Paragraph 1 of this Master Deed shall constitute common elements for the non-exclusive use of the unit owners.
( Master Deed for Woodhaven, A Condominium, Exhibit A to Defendant's Moving Brief, at 8 P 6(c)).
The Association purportedly took the position
that it could not act on Mr. Gittleman's request without making a material amendment to Paragraph 6(c) of the Master Deed. Material amendments to the Master Deed require prior approval by unit owners representing at least two-thirds of the votes entitled to be cast. (Master Deed Paragraph 18). Under the terms of the Master Deed, amendments affecting "rights to use the common areas" are material amendments that require a two-thirds vote of approval. (Id.). Consistent with this position, the Association purportedly placed a resolution before the whole membership to amend the Master Deed and allow for assigned parking on an exclusive basis. (Defendant's Brief at 1). This resolution did not carry the requisite two-thirds vote, according to Defendant's counsel.
Mr. Gittleman filed this suit on February 24, 1997 claiming he is entitled to relief under the FHAA
and the NJLAD. The Association filed an Answer and then this motion for summary judgment. Maintenance Management, Inc. has not Answered the Complaint or joined in this motion for summary judgment.
Because the Association's motion deals solely with Mr. Gittleman's FHAA claim, the Court will not address the viability of Mr. Gittleman's NJLAD claim in this Opinion. Furthermore, the Court expresses no opinion today as to the viability of the claims against Maintenance Management, Inc.
A. Standard on a Motion for Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Whether a fact is material is determined by the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). An issue involving a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Healy v. New York Life Ins. Co., 860 F.2d 1209, 1219 n.3 (3d Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1098, 104 L. Ed. 2d 1004, 109 S. Ct. 2449 (1989).
The moving party has the initial burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Where the moving party satisfies this requirement, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to present evidence that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Once the moving party has carried its burden of establishing the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the nonmoving party "may not rest upon mere allegations or denials" of its pleading, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e), but must produce sufficient evidence to reasonably support a jury verdict in its favor, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, and not just "some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986).
In determining whether any genuine issues of material fact exist, the Court must resolve "all inferences, doubts, and issues of credibility ... against the moving party." Meyer v. Riegel Products Corp., 720 F.2d 303, 307 n.2 (3d Cir. 1983), cert. dism'd., 465 U.S. 1091, 104 S. Ct. 2144, 79 L. Ed. 2d 910 (1984) (citing Smith v. Pittsburgh Gage & Supply Co., 464 F.2d 870, 874 (3d Cir. 1972)).
Since a motion for summary judgment is designed to go beyond the pleadings, factual specificity is required of a party who opposes such a motion. Celotex, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Accordingly, in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment, a party may not merely restate the allegations of his complaint. Farmer v. Carlson, 685 F. Supp. 1335, 1339 (M.D.Pa. 1988). Moreover, a party cannot rely upon self-serving conclusions, unsupported by specific facts in the record. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322- 23. A non-moving party must point to concrete evidence in the record which supports each essential element of his case. Id. If the party fails to provide such evidence, then he is not entitled to a trial and the moving-party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).
In deciding a summary judgment motion, however, the Court's role is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the party opposing summary judgment has exceeded the "mere scintilla" threshold and has offered a genuine issue of material fact, then the Court cannot credit the movant's version of events, even if the quantity of the movant's evidence far outweighs that of its opponent. Big Apple BMW v. BMW of North America, 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912, 113 S. Ct. 1262, 122 L. Ed. 2d 659 (1993).
When a case turns on credibility determinations, summary judgment is inappropriate. Coolspring Stone Supply, Inc. v. American States Life Ins. Co., 10 F.3d 144, 148 (3d Cir. 1993). Furthermore, "issues of knowledge and intent are particularly inappropriate for resolution by summary judgment, since such issues must often be resolved on the basis of inferences drawn from the conduct of the parties." Id. (quoting Riehl v. Travelers Ins. Co., 772 F.2d 19, 23 (3d Cir. 1985)).
The FHAA was enacted in 1988 to extend the principle of equal opportunity in housing to, among others, those with handicaps. See Shapiro v. Cadman Towers, Inc., 51 F.3d 328, 333 (2d Cir. 1995)(citing H.R.Rep. No. 711, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. (1988)). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2)(A), it is unlawful "to discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of a handicap of that person." 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).
The federal regulations promulgated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") contain an example of a reasonable accommodation that is particularly relevant to this case:
Progress Gardens is a 300 unit apartment complex with 450 parking spaces which are available to tenants and guests of Progress Gardens on a first come first served basis. John applies for housing in Progress Gardens. John is mobility impaired and is unable to walk more than a short distance and therefore requests that a parking space near his unit be reserved for him so he will not have to walk very far to get to his apartment. It is a violation . . . for the owner or manager to refuse to make this accommodation. Without a reserved space, John might be unable to live in Progress Gardens at all or, when he has to park in a space far from his unit, might have difficulty getting from his car to his apartment unit. The ...