Jul 13, 2010

Recent Cases

Marshall Fincher v. South Bend Heritage Foundation, 606 F.3d 331 (7th Cir. 2010)

Fincher, tenant, sued the landlord after being denied Section 8 housing based on a prior eviction,claiming he was denied due process of law and suffered the effects of a breach of contract between the defendant and Housing and Urban Development Contract. The District Court a granted summary judgment to the defendant and the Appellate Court affirmed.

The Plaintiff brought a complaint against both the South Bend Housing Authority and the South Bend Heritage Foundation. The case against the Housing Authority was remanded to the state courts because the eviction process involved in the claim against the state agency is inherently a state issue. In the complaint against SBHF the plaintiff stated that did not have the opportunity to exercise his due process rights and that he was a party to the contract between the landlord and HUD because he was the recipient of the benefit.

The Appellate Court denied both claims. Pertaining to the first claim, the plaintiff concedes that there is well established case law for the 7th Circuit in Edison v. Pierce, 745 f.2d 453 (7th Cir. 1984) which states that recipients of Section 8 benefit have no right to due process when rejected from a specific housing unit, however, he asks that the Court overturn this precedent. With no new changes in law or flaws in the reason of the case exist to justify a overturn the Court’s previous decision. Secondly the Court rejected Fincher’s claim that he is third party-beneficiary to the contract between SBHF and HUD because he did not produce the contract or identify and any provisions (as required to establish an issue of law) that would establish the basis of his claim.

Equal Rights Center v. Archstone Multifamily Series I Trust, 602 F.3d 597 (4th Cir 2010)

The Equal Rights Center brought a claim against Archstone, Niles Bolton, and others for failure to comply with the FHA and ADA in the design and construction of 71 apartment buildings. Archstone, the apartment owners, sought to indemnify themselves against FHA and ADA by making the architect liable. The owners appealed and the appellate court affirmed the District Court’s decision to grant a summary judgment to the defendant, and deny the owner the motion to amend the complaint for contribution. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the law was “non-delegable” and that the owner could not insulate himself from responsibility to meet requirements and that the purpose of both the FHA and ADA would have been undermined by allowing the architect to be held liable because it would not make the intended parties accountable or responsive to the law.

Archstone settled with the Equal Rights plaintiffs and filed a cross claim against Niles Bolton, the architect asserting several state-law based causes of action including express indemnity, implied indemnity, breach of contract, and professional negligence. Essentially it is Archstones position that the contract between the owner and the architect provides that the Architect make good defects that result from the architect’s failure to meet the professional standard of care. Archstone in its third party complaint, sought to recover damages, attorney’s fees and costs paid by Archstone to the Equal Rights plaintiffs and recover costs for retrofitting the portions of properties that didn’t meet ADA and FHA requirements. The Court found first, that the claims by Archstone were preempted under the federal law and secondly that the intent to recover losses and damages resulting from the non-compliance represented de facto indemnification from the federal statutes.

Finally, Archstone attempted to amend its complaint to include a claim for contribution, which the district court denied because it changed the nature of the claim regarding the liability and would therefore require additional discovery and “change the character of the litigation”, the appellate court agreed and affirmed the district ‘ decision to deny the amendment.

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