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Daniels v. Department of Housing and Urban Development

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

July 25, 2017

BYRON K. DANIELS PLAINTIFF
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

         The motions to dismiss filed by defendants Department of Housing and Urban Development [Doc. No. 26], Sunset Terrace, Metropolian Housing Alliance, Robyn Hornes, Kathy Washington, and Kalimba Summerville [Doc. No. 14] are granted, and plaintiff Byron Daniels's motions for default judgment, judgement on the pleadings, and summary judgment [Doc. No. 24] are denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Accepting plaintiff Byron Daniels's allegations as true, the material facts are as follows. Lou White, Daniels's mother, leased a two-bedroom unit at Sunset Terrace, a property owned and operated by Housing Authority of the City of Little Rock, d/b/a Metropolitan Housing Alliance (“MHA”). Compl. ¶¶ 4-6, Doc. No. 2. As an accommodation to White's disability, Daniels was permitted to live with White as a live-in aide. Id. Daniels signed a live-in aide agreement in which he agreed he was an “employee of Lou White” and that he “ha[d] no other rights to the unit.” Id. ¶ 11 (referencing live-in aide agreement); id. n.1 (describing agreement); Doc. No. 3 at 6 (live-in aide agreement). The agreement also provided that “[i]f the employer/employee relationship is severed, [Daniels] will move out of the unit immediately”, and “[i]f [White] dies, [Daniels] has no right to remain in the unit and will vacate the apartment immediately.” Doc. No. 3 at 6.

         On September 16, 2016, White passed away. Daniels, however, did not vacate the apartment immediately. He spoke to defendants Robyn Hornes, property manager, and Kalimba Summerville, assistant property manager, about transferring White's unit into Daniels's name. Compl. ¶ 11. Daniels was told he could not live in White's two-bedroom unit by himself and that he had no continued right to occupy the unit after his mother's passing. Id. In response, Daniels attempted to add his six-year old nephew to a lease. Apparently, Hornes or Summerville worked with defendant Kathy Washington, interim director of asset management, to either get approval of this relationship or to get approval to transfer tenancy of White's unit into Daniels's name. The requests were denied. Id.

         Daniels refused to move out and filed suit for money damages and an injunction. He sued Sunset Terrace; MHA; Hornes; Summerville; Washington; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). He claims defendants (1) unlawfully discriminated based on familial status, race, and gender; (2) breached fiduciary duties; (3) caused a contract to be signed under duress; and (4) refused live-in aides housing in an unconstitutional manner. Defendants have all moved to dismiss, and Daniels moves for judgment on the pleadings, for summary judgment, and for default judgment.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. To meet the 12(b)(6) standard, a complaint must allege sufficient facts to entitle the plaintiff to the relief sought. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). Although detailed factual allegations are not required, threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, are insufficient. Id. In ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, materials embraced by the pleadings, as well as exhibits attached to the pleadings and matters of public record, may all be considered. Mills v. City of Grand Forks, 614 F.3d 495, 498 (8th Cir. 2010).

         III. DISCUSSION

         All of Daniels's claims are dismissed either because a party is immune or because he has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         Before analyzing Daniels's claims, one observation is necessary. The gravamen of Daniels's claims against defendants is that he acquired some property interest in White's apartment after becoming a live-in aide, and when defendants refused to allow him to remain in White's apartment after her passing, his property interest was impaired. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how one acquires property interests in an apartment. A property interest arises from a written lease agreement for the unit in question, rather than simply occupying the unit as caregiver. See 24 C.F.R. § 982.308 (“The tenant and the owner must enter a lease for the unit. The lease must be executed by the owner and the tenant.”); see also Ark. Code Ann. § 18-17-301(15) (defining “tenant” as “a person entitled under a rental agreement to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others”). Here, there was no lease agreement between Daniels and defendants, and Daniels's only right to occupy White's unit was premised on him providing caregiving services to White.

         With that understanding in mind, each of Daniels's claims will be discussed in turn.

         A. Daniels's Motion for Default Judgment [Doc. No. 29]

         Daniels's motion for default judgment is denied. Daniels moved for default judgment against HUD because of its failure to answer or move for dismissal in time. Doc. No. 29. A clerk's entry of default has not been entered, which must precede a grant of default judgment under Rule 55(b). Johnson v. Dayton Elec. Mfg. Co., 140 F.3d 781, 784 (8th Cir. 1998). Even if an entry did occur, “a party is not entitled to a default judgment as a matter of right, even where the defendant is technically in default.” Lewis v. Lynn, 236 F.3d 766, 767 (5th Cir. 2011); see Ackra Direct Mktg Corp. v. Fingerhut Corp., 86 F.3d 852, 856 (8th Cir. 1996) (review of order on default judgment is for abuse of discretion); Oberstar v. Federal Deposit Ins. Corp., 987 F.2d 494, 504 (8th Cir. 1993) (“We have frequently endorsed the strong judicial policy against default judgments. Applying this policy, we recently held a district court abused its discretion by entering a default judgment for a marginal failure to comply with the time requirements.”) (citations and quotation omitted). As discussed below, Daniels's claims against HUD must be dismissed, and therefore his request for default judgment is denied. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(d) (“A default judgment may be entered against the United States, its officers, or its agencies only if the claimant establishes a claim or right to relief by evidence that satisfies the court.”) (emphasis added).

         B. HUD

         Daniels's claims against HUD for violating the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), 42 U.S.C. § 1982, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state tort law are dismissed. As explained below, Daniels's claims are barred by ...


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