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Wilson v. Guardian Management, LLC

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 22, 2019


          Shannon D. Sims, Attorney at Law, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Jonathan Henderson and Christopher J. Drotzmann, Davis Rothwell Earle & Xochihua, PC, Of Attorneys for Defendants.


          Michael H. Simon United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Randi Wilson (“Plaintiff”) brings this lawsuit against Guardian Management, LLC d/b/a Mountain Knoll (“Guardian”), Kristine Herb, and two John or Jane Does (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff alleges that Guardian negligently allowed its tenants to smoke on its property, which resulted in a fire damaging Plaintiff's property. Plaintiff also alleges housing discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and its state counterpart. Defendants move for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims.

         United States Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You issued a Findings and Recommendation in this case on December 12, 2018. ECF 41. Judge You had previously issued a findings and recommendation recommending that summary judgment be granted against Plaintiff's discrimination claim and denied on Plaintiff's negligence claim. ECF 32. Judge You withdrew her findings and recommendation and construed Defendant's objections as a motion for reconsideration. ECF 35, 37. On reconsideration, Judge You recommended that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted on all claims and that the case be dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiff filed objections, ECF 43, to which Defendants responded. ECF 45. For the reasons discussed below, after a de novo review, the Court agrees with the recommendation to grant summary judgment on all claims, but does not adopt the reasoning related to Plaintiff's housing discrimination claims. Accordingly, the Court adopts in part the Findings and Recommendation.


         A. Federal Magistrates Act

         Under the Federal Magistrates Act (“Act”), the Court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). If a party files objections to a magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, “the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         For those portions of a magistrate judge's findings and recommendations to which neither party has objected, the Act does not prescribe any standard of review. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 152 (1985) (“There is no indication that Congress, in enacting [the Act], intended to require a district judge to review a magistrate's report to which no objections are filed.”); United States. v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) (holding that the court must review de novo magistrate judge's findings and recommendations if objection is made, “but not otherwise”). Although in the absence of objections no review is required, the Act “does not preclude further review by the district judge[] sua sponte . . . under a de novo or any other standard.” Thomas, 474 U.S. at 154. Indeed, the Advisory Committee Notes to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) recommend that “[w]hen no timely objection is filed, ” the Court review the magistrate judge's recommendations for “clear error on the face of the record.”

         B. Summary Judgment

         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Clicks Billiards Inc. v. Sixshooters Inc., 251 F.3d 1252, 1257 (9th Cir. 2001). Although “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment, ” the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position [is] insufficient . . . .” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 255 (1986). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         C. Housing Discrimination Claims

         The FHA prohibits discriminating against any person by refusing to “sell or rent” a dwelling or by discriminating “in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a)-(b). “FHA claims . . . may be brought under theories of both disparate treatment and disparate impact.” Comm. Concerning Cmty. Improvement v. City of Modesto, 583 F.3d 690, 711 (9th Cir. 2009). Courts “analyze FHA . . . disparate treatment claims under Title VII's three-stage McDonnell Douglas/Burdine test.” Gamble v. City of Escondido, 104 F.3d 300, 305 (9th Cir. 1997); see also McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973); Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981). Accordingly, to establish a prima facie claim of disparate treatment based on sex (or gender), a plaintiff must first show that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was denied a rental relationship or otherwise treated differently in the terms, conditions, or privileges of her rental relationship or in the provision of services or facilities to her as a tenant; and (3) the different treatment was, at least in part, because of her sex (or gender). See 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b).

         Oregon's fair housing law, Oregon Revised Statute § 659A.145, mirrors the FHA and the two statutes are interpreted identically. See Marquard v. New Penn Financial, LLC, 2017 WL 4227685, at *12 (D. Or. Sept. 22, 2017) (citing Fishing Rock Owners' Ass'n v. Roberts, 6 F.Supp.3d 1132, 1138 n.1 (D. Or. 2014)). The Court's resolution of ...

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