Lath v. Vallee et al
///ORDER denying as moot 80 Motion for Reconsideration. For the reasons detailed in this order, Counts 3(a)-(i), Counts 5-8, and Count 14 of the SAC are all dismissed, and this case is now limited to Counts 1, 2, 4, and 9-13. In light of the courts dismissal of Count 14, John Bissons motion for reconsideration, document no. 80, is denied as moot. So Ordered by Judge Landya B. McCafferty.(gla)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
Civil No. 16-cv-463-LM
Opinion No. 2017 DNH 066
Oak Brook Condominium Owners’
Association, Cheryl Vallee,
Perry Vallee, William Quinn
Morey, Gerald Dufresne, Christos
Klardie, Vickie Grandmaison,
Patty Taylor, Betty Mullen,
Scott Sample, John Bisson, and
O R D E R
In an order dated March 20, 2017, pro se plaintiff Sanjeev
Lath was given the opportunity to show cause why Counts 3(a)-(i)
and Counts 5-8 of his second amended complaint (“SAC”) should
not be dismissed for failing to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted.
Lath has responded to that order.
reasons that follow, Counts 3(a)-(i), Counts 5-8, and Count 14
of the SAC are all dismissed.
In the show cause order, the court gave Lath the option of
voluntarily dismissing any claims he no longer wished to pursue,
but also stated that to continue pursuing any claim he did not
give up, he would have to “(1) identify the specific defendant
or defendants; (2) specify the cause of action . . .; (3) state
the elements of that cause of action . . .; and (4) allege facts
that satisfy each element of the cause of action.”
Doc. no. 72,
Lath has declined to dismiss any of the claims that are
covered by the show cause order.
In the balance of this order,
the court considers each of the claims that are subject to the
show cause order, and also considers the claim for civil
conspiracy asserted in Count 14 of the SAC.
A. Counts 3(a)-(i)
Counts 3(a)-(i) assert claims for retaliation, in violation
of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
In the show cause order, the court noted
“that ‘in connection with a . . . claim . . . under Section
3617, there must be sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to
conclude that the Defendants were motivated by a protected
characteristic in performing the challenged conduct.’”
72, at 18 (quoting S. Middlesex Opp. Council, Inc. v. Town of
Framingham, 752 F. Supp. 2d 85, 95-96 (D. Mass. 2010)).
[P]laintiff alleges that [Warren] Mills once called
him a “sand nigger.” But Plaintiff does not allege
that Mills engaged in any of the conduct underlying
his retaliation claim[s], and makes no allegations of
animus on the part of any of the defendants who did
engage in the conduct he calls retaliatory.
Plaintiff’s inadequate allegations of animus would
appear to be fatal to his retaliation claims. . . .
While the court harbors concerns over the allegations
of animus in the SAC, the better course of action with
respect to plaintiff’s retaliation claims under § 3617
. . . is to give him an opportunity to show cause why
those claims should not be dismissed for failing to
allege that “defendants’ conduct was at least
partially motivated by intentional discrimination.”
S. Middlesex, 752 F. Supp. 2d at 95.
Doc. no. 72, at 18-19 (emphasis in the original).
In his response, Lath says absolutely nothing about animus
toward a protected characteristic on the part of any of the
defendants who engaged in allegedly retaliatory conduct.
he has failed to show cause why Counts 3(a)-(i) should not be
B. Count 5
Count 5 arises from an alleged failure to comply with the
American National Standards for buildings and facilities
(“ANSI”), in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2).
In its show
cause order, the court pointed out that apart from mentioning
ANSI in the heading of a claim, the SAC said nothing about ANSI
The court also said this:
[P]laintiff does not allege that he has any physical
handicap, so it is difficult to see how, with respect
to ANSI compliance, he is “[a]n aggrieved person,” 42
U.S.C. § 3613(a)(1)(A), entitled to bring a claim for
an alleged failure to comply with ANSI.
Doc. no. 72, at 23 n.10.
In other words, the court raised the
issue of standing.
In his response to the show cause order, Lath fleshes out
the claim he asserts in Count 5 this way:
By charging a fee for additional parking spaces
and a $500 [fee] for transfer of [a] carport deed, Oak
Brook condominium association, had a statutory duty
under RSA 261:88, to provide free parking to any motor
vehicle carrying special handicap plates or [a]
hanging windshield placard issued to a person with a
Because of the fees charged for carport deed
transfer, and by not providing handicap accessible
parking spaces, compliant to ANSI 117.1, Oak Brook
Condominium Association, violated the Fair Housing
Act. Such is also a violation of RSA 265:74, whose
provisions require these marked spots to be assigned
for vehicles “with hanging windshield placard[s]
issued to a person with a walking disability under RSA
Additionally, residents with walking
disabilities, such [as] intervenor-plaintiff, Barbara
Belware, who made several requests to the [Oak Brook]
Board [of Directors] for a designated parking space,
while in . . . possession of a lawfully issued walking
disability placard, has been constructively denied, by
management and the board, which was in the furtherance
[of] their retaliation [through] coercion or
Doc. no. 79 ¶¶ 11-13.
Because he has said nothing to address
the issue of standing, Lath has failed to show cause why Count 5
should not be dismissed.
The court begins by describing the law of standing.
According to the court of appeals,
[t]he “[f]irst and foremost” concern in standing
analysis is the requirement that the plaintiff
establish an injury in fact, Spokeo [v. Robins], 136
S. Ct. [1540,] 1547 [(2016)] (alteration in original)
(quoting Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env’t, 523
U.S. 83, 103 (1998)), which “helps to ensure that the
plaintiff has a ‘personal stake in the outcome of the
controversy,’” SBA List [v. Driehaus], 134 S. Ct.
[2334,] 2341 [(2014)] (quoting Warth [v. Seldin], 422
U.S. [490,] 498 [(1975)].
Reddy v. Foster, 845 F.3d 493, 500 (1st Cir. 2017) (emphasis
added, parallel citations omitted).
Judge Feinerman’s order in
Jafri provides a good example of a plaintiff who has sustained
an injury in fact that is sufficient to confer standing to bring
a claim such as the one Lath asserts in Count 5.
In that case,
Fahad Jafri alleged that he had “multiple sclerosis and
chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy,” 970 F. Supp. 2d at
856, and that he had suffered “a series of medical setbacks
[that] severely limited his mobility,” id.
Even so, he was
denied handicap accessible parking by his condominium.
On those allegations, Judge Feinerman ruled that Jafri
had standing to bring a claim under the FHA for failure to
accommodate his handicap.
See id. at 862.
Here, by contrast, Lath does not allege that he has any
sort of physical handicap.
Nor does he allege that he has ever
requested, or been denied, an ANSI-compliant parking space.
Thus, the allegations in the SAC do not establish Lath’s
standing to bring the claim he asserts in Count 5.
To be sure,
he suggests that Barbara Belware has a walking disability and
was denied accessible parking.
But she is not a party to this
case, see Order (doc. no. 87) 2-12, and nothing that happened to
Belware could have resulted in an injury to Lath.
has failed to allege any injury resulting from defendants’
alleged failure to comply with the ANSI standards, he lacks
standing to assert an FHA claim based upon a failure to
accommodate a physical handicap.
That, in turn, entitles
defendants to dismissal of Count 5.
C. Counts 6 & 7
Count 6 asserts a claim, under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2), that
defendants conspired to obstruct justice by threatening Jason
Manugian, who was a potential witness in various court cases and
a proceeding before the New Hampshire Commission for Human
Count 7 asserts a claim, also under § 1985(2), that
various defendants conspired to obstruct justice by destroying
or altering evidence that was relevant to a pending case in the
New Hampshire Superior Court.
In its show cause order, the court explained that “a
§ 1985(2) ‘plaintiff may recover only when the conspiratorial
conduct of which he complains is propelled by some racial, or
perhaps otherwise class-based, invidiously discriminatory
Doc. no. 72, at 33 (quoting Powell v. Massachusetts,
No. 16-cv-30004-MGM, 2016 WL 7115887, at *11 (D. Mass. Sept. 20,
On that basis, the court stated that before plaintiff
may proceed on the § 1985(2) claims he asserts in Counts 6 and
7, he must “show cause why those claims should not be dismissed
for failure to allege that the alleged acts of conspiracy were
caused by invidiously discriminatory animus.”
response to the show cause order says nothing at all about
class-based discriminatory animus.
Thus, Counts 6 and 7 are
both dismissed for failing to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted.
Moreover, even if Counts 6 and 7 were not subject to
dismissal for failure to allege class-based invidiously
discriminatory animus, they would be subject to dismissal for
failure to include “plausible allegations of an agreement among
the conspirators to violate [Lath’s] rights,” Olmo v. Narker,
No. CV 14-13434-WGY, 2015 WL 4535669, at *3 (D. Mass. July 27,
2015), a requirement the court identified in the show cause
order, see doc. no. 72, at 31-32.
Finally, notwithstanding the
court’s directive to identify the defendants for each claim, the
portion of Lath’s response dedicated to Count 6 mentions only a
single defendant, Betty Mullen.
That is a problem because, as
the court explained in the show cause order, the first element
of a § 1985(2) claim is “a conspiracy between two or more
Doc. no. 72, at 31 (quoting Powell, 2016 WL 7115887,
In sum, there are multiple grounds for the dismissal
of Counts 6 and 7.
E. Count 8
Count 8 asserts a claim that defendants violated 42 U.S.C.
§ 1986 by failing to prevent the violations of § 1985(2) that
underlie Counts 6 and 7.
Given that Counts 6 and 7 have been
dismissed, Count 8 necessarily fails as well.
F. Count 14
Count 14 is a common law claim for civil conspiracy in
which plaintiff asserts that various defendants conspired to
violate the FHA by retaliating against him.
plaintiff has failed to show cause why his FHA retaliation
claims should not be dismissed for failing to adequately allege
animus toward a protected characteristic, the conspiracy claim
asserted in Count 14 must necessarily fail.
In its order of March 20, the court laid out the elements
of civil conspiracy under the common law of New Hampshire, which
include these: “(2) an object to be accomplished (i.e., an
unlawful object to be achieved buy lawful or unlawful means . .
.); . . . (4) one or more unlawful overt acts.”
Doc. no. 72
(quoting In re Armagania, 147 N.H. 158, 163 (2001)).
plaintiff has failed to allege the animus necessary to establish
an FHA retaliation claim, any retaliation that defendants may
have agreed to accomplish, or may have actually accomplished,
was not an unlawful act for the purposes of satisfying the
second and fourth elements of a claim for civil conspiracy.
that reason, Count 14 is dismissed.
For the reasons detailed above, Counts 3(a)-(i), Counts 58, and Count 14 of the SAC are all dismissed, and this case is
now limited to Counts 1, 2, 4, and 9-13.
Moreover, in light of
the court’s dismissal of Count 14, John Bisson’s motion for
reconsideration, document no. 80, is denied as moot.
United States District Judge
April 3, 2017
Gary M. Burt, Esq.
Sanjeev Lath, pro se
Sabin R. Maxwell, Esq.
Daniel E. Will, Esq.
Joshua M. Wyatt, Esq.
Gerard Dufresne, pro se
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