United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
TENYIKA SAMS; BRIGITTE BROWN; MARIE DAVIS; TOMEKA DUDLEY; SHANEQUITA FRAZIER; ADRIAN KENNEDY; LESLIE MITCHELL; LORETTA MOBLEY; SHANA ROUSE; NATALIE WALLACE; LATOYA WHITE; JNAI WHITEHEAD; ROSHAUN WILLIAMS; SAVANNAH-CHATHAM COUNTY FAIR HOUSING COUNCIL, INC.; JEANIE BELALCAZAR; and CLYDE JERRON CAMPBELL; Plaintiffs,
GA WEST GATE, LLC; AMERICAN APARTMENT MANAGEMENT COMPANY, INC.; CHG WEST GATE, LLC; and CITY OF GARDEN CITY; Defendants.
WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant CHG West Gate, LLC's
("CHG") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 34}, Defendant
American Apartment Management Company, Inc.'s
("American") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 36},
Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Second Amended
Complaint (Doc. 40), Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of
Default against Defendant GA West Gate LLC (Doc. 79), and
Plaintiffs' Motion to Withdraw Request for Entry of
Default and to Dismiss Defendant GA West Gate, LLC (Doc 85).
For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion, for Leave
to File (Doc. 40} is GRANTED. Defendants CHG and
American's Motions to Dismiss (Doc. 34; Doc. 36) are
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Plaintiffs' Motion to
Withdraw (Doc. 85) is GRANTED and Plaintiffs' Motion for
Entry of Default (Doc. 79) is DISMISSED AS MOOT. Finally,
Defendant GA West Gate LLC is DISMISSED.
in this case are tenants and former tenants of the Westgate
Apartments in Garden City, and a nonprofit corporation whose
goal is the promotion of equal opportunity in housing
rental. (Doc. 40, Attach. 1 ¶¶ 5,
6.) Between September. 20, 2008 and December 12, 2012,
Defendant GA West Gate, LLC owned, operated, and managed the
Westgate Apartments. (Id. ¶ 7.) In 2012,
however, an individual named Hans Juhle-a principal with
Integra Property Group-acquired the Westgate Apartments in
order to float a public authority bond. (Id. ¶
37.) Integra Property Group established the Chisom Housing
Group as a nonprofit for purposes of the bond, and created
Defendant CHG to own the Westgate Apartments. (Id.
¶ 38.) Defendant American operated as the managing agent
of the apartments. (Id. at ¶ 8.) To secure
public authority bond financing, Integra Property Group and
Defendant American sought Garden City approval to issue the
bond. (Id. ¶ 39.) To further that goal, Mr.
Juhle met with the Garden City Police Chief and assured him
that Defendant CHG would cooperate with police.
(Id.) Moreover, Mr. Juhle directed the Westgate
apartment's on-site management to meet with the Garden
City Police Chief. (Id.)
addition to seeking approval for the bond and communicating
with the Garden City Police Chief, Defendants CHG and
American continued to enforce certain restrictions on
Westgate tenants put in place by the apartment's previous
owners and managers. (Id. ¶ 42.) These
restrictions included the enforcement of a 10:00 p.m. curfew,
restrictions on the use of the apartment grounds for
children's play, and the threat of eviction for
violations of these rules. (Id.) Additionally,
Defendants imposed a 99-year criminal history rule.
(Id. ¶ 44) This rule barred from residency any
individual who had certain felony or misdemeanor convictions
within the past 99 years. (Id.) The felony and
misdemeanor convictions encompassed by the rules included
injuries to a person, damage to property, manufacturing or
distributing illegal substances, illegal use or possession of
. any controlled substance, possession of an unregistered
firearm or illegal weapon, harm to a child, harm to an
animal, or any felony in the past 10 years. (Id.) To
enforce this rule, Defendants CHG and American requested that
all tenants report to the Garden City police department for a
criminal history probe. (See, e.g., id.
¶ 50.) Each Plaintiff in this case complied with this
December 2013, Defendants CHG and American began seeking to
evict certain tenants because of their criminal history.
(Id. ¶ 45.) Plaintiffs Mitchell, Brown, Sams,
and Whitehead were served with eviction notices between
December 17, 2013 and February 27, 2014. (Id.
¶¶ 45-46.) However, these Plaintiffs fought the
evictions and in March of 2014, a state court quashed the
eviction proceedings. (Id. ¶ 47.) Despite the
lack of successful eviction proceedings, many other Westgate
tenants remained fearful that they would be evicted pursuant
to the 99-year rule. (Id.)
October 21, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against
various defendants in this Court. (Doc. 1.) On March 13,
2016, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 31.)
Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants CHG and American committed
discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair
Housing Act and engaged in a conspiracy to deprive Plaintiffs
of equal protection of the laws. (Doc. 31.) On March 25,
2016, Defendants CHG and American filed Motions to Dismiss
alleging that Plaintiffs had failed to state a claim against
them. (Doc. 24; Doc. 36.) On April 11, 2016, Plaintiffs filed
a Response (Doc. 41) to the motions to dismiss and also filed
a Motion to Amend or Correct the Amended Complaint (Doc. 40).
DISMISSAL OF DEFENDANT GA WEST GATE LLC
initial matter, Plaintiffs have requested that Defendant Ga
Westgate be dismissed. (Doc. 85.) Pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 41(a) (1) (A) (i), a plaintiff may dismiss an
action by filing "a notice of dismissal before the
opposing party serves either an answer or a motion for
summary judgment." Because Defendant GA West Gate has
filed neither an answer nor a motion for summary judgment in
this case, Plaintiffs' request (Doc. 85) is GRANTED and
Defendant GA West Gate LLC is DISMISSED. See Plains
Growers, Inc. v. Ickes-Braun Glasshouses, Inc., 474 F.2d
250, 255 (5th Cir. 1973) ("[Pleading the rules governing
dismissal by notice and dismissal by motion together, we
conclude that it was intended by the rule-makers to permit
dismissal against such of the defendants as have not served
an answer or motion for summary judgment . . .
"). As a result, Plaintiffs' Motion
for Entry of Default (Doc. 79) is DISMISSED AS MOOT.
MOTION TO AMEND
have requested that the Court grant them leave to amend their
complaint in response to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.
(Doc. 40.) Even where the time for filing an amended
complaint has passed, Courts may grant permission to amend
"when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) (2).
There has been neither prejudice nor delay in this case such
as would justify denying Plaintiffs' motion. See In
re Engle Cases, 767 F.3d 1082, 1182-09 (11th Cir. 2014)
(explaining that motion for leave to amend may be denied
where "there has been undue delay, bad faith, dilatory
motive, or repeated failure to cure deficiencies by
amendments previously allowed . . . undue prejudice to the
opposing party; or . . where amendment would be
futile"). Moreover, the Court does not find
Plaintiffs' amendment futile. As will be discussed
further below, Plaintiffs' amendment results in adequate
pleading of certain of Plaintiffs' claims against
Defendants CHG and American. Accordingly, Plaintiffs'
Motion to Amend is GRANTED. (Doc. 4 0.)
MOTION TO DISMISS
granting Plaintiffs motion to amend, the Court would
generally dismiss Defendants' Motions to Dismiss as moot.
However, Defendants filed a response to the motion to amend
arguing that Plaintiffs' proposed amended complaint still
failed to state a claim for relief under Rule 12(b) (6).
(Doc. 64.) Accordingly, the Court will review ...