On March 17, 2011, the National Fair Housing Alliance and Paralyzed Veterans of America filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., against Virginia-based real estate development company HHHunt Corporation, and a multitude of affiliated designers, builders, managers, and owners of nine apartment complexes throughout the Southeast.
In their complaint
, the plaintiffs, represented by Relman, Dane & Colfax, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, and damages, claiming that the defendants discriminated against people with disabilities, in violation of the FHA. Specifically, the FHA requires that certain apartment complexes built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 be designed and constructed with accessible and adaptable features for people with disabilities. The plaintiffs alleged, however, that since at least 2002 the defendants engaged in a continuous pattern or practice of discrimination by designing and building multifamily dwellings without these required features, thereby denying people with disabilities the use of these facilities.
On April 5, 2012, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint
, adding as defendant J. Davis Architects, which the plaintiffs alleged was the design architect on at least one of the subject properties. The amended complaint also named as defendants several property managers, and the plaintiffs asked the court to enjoin these managers from refusing to permit surveys and retrofits of the subject properties.
On October 26, 2012, the District Court (Judge James C. Turk) entered a stipulated judgment
, evincing the terms of a settlement agreement between the plaintiffs and all the defendants except J. Davis Architects. Under the agreement, HHHunt agreed to permit accessibility surveys by a third party inspector of the nine subject properties and to retrofit inaccessible features within one to three years. Specifically, HHHunt agreed to change entry doors with high thresholds, remove large steps that block routes to entry doors, correct hazardously steep sidewalk slopes, provide adequate accessible parking, and ensure that kitchens and bathrooms have sufficient maneuvering space for wheelchair users. HHHunt also committed to pay an undisclosed sum for the plaintiffs' costs and attorneys' fees. The District Court retained jurisdiction to designate a Magistrate Judge or another person to resolve disputes between the parties.
Following the settlement, the only remaining claims in the lawsuit were those against J. Davis Architects. The plaintiffs contended that J. Davis drafted architectural plans for at least one of the subject properties that contained design elements that violated that FHA. After some disagreement, the parties ultimately stipulated that J. Davis had a connection to two of the subject properties.
J. Davis next moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that one of the plaintiffs' claims was barred by the statute of limitations. The District Court (Judge Turk) denied the motion
on January 29, 2013, finding that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged that the claim was timely, because the challenged conduct was not an isolated occurrence, but rather part of a pattern or practice that amounted to a continuing violation of the FHA. Nat'l Fair Hous. Alliance, Inc. v. HHHunt Corp.
, 919 F. Supp. 2d 712 (W.D. Va. 2013).
Nearly one year passed with little court activity. On January 14, 2014, the District Court entered an order dismissing the action with prejudice, upon motion of the plaintiffs and J. Davis. The joint motion contained no additional terms, and it is unclear if it was predicated on a private settlement agreement.
While the District Court presently considers this entire matter closed, it presumably still has limited jurisdiction to resolve disputes arising under the October 2012 settlement agreement until October 26, 2015. Megan Richardson - 11/13/2014
Robert Lake - 07/03/2015