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Thames v. Focus Manor, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

June 7, 2018

FOCUS MANOR, INC., a Mississippi Corporation, TALIAFARO, INC., a Tennessee Corporation, JOYCE ROBERSON, GEORGE A. MILLER, LAMONT WESTBROOK, and ANNIE CARTER, Individually and in their official capacities DEFENDANTS



         Presently before the court is Defendant George A. Miller's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Upon due consideration of the motion, response and complaint, the court is ready to rule.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Amos Thames has been a paraplegic and wheelchair bound since 2014. Consequently, Thames requires “around the clock” care and is totally dependent on the assistance of others. In the summer of 2015, Thames began searching for a place to live which would meet his needs, both physically and financially. During this search, Thames discovered a residential facility located in Louisville, Mississippi, owned by Defendant Focus Manor.

         Thames alleges that Miller, Focus Manor's Executive Director, actively participated in the recruitment of Thames as a resident for the facility. Miller allegedly made certain representations to Thames regarding its relationship with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), touting the facility as HUD-approved and limited solely to residents with disabilities. Miller additionally assured Thames that his needs, i.e. for a daily caregiver, would be accommodated and that an on-site property manager-Defendant Joyce Roberson-would be available to assist Thames should an emergency arise.

         Thames allegedly relied on Miller's representations when he entered into a HUD lease agreement with Focus Manor on August 28, 2015, to live at the Louisville facility. Thames resided at the facility without incident until February 16, 2016. On this date, Thames was at his apartment alone, fell from his wheelchair, and needed emergency assistance. Thames contacted Roberson but she allegedly refused either to help him herself or to call “911” for assistance.

         Following this incident, Thames's sister called Miller to complain about Roberson, but Miller allegedly defended her inaction. Thames's sister followed up with a written complaint concerning the incident and sent a copy to Miller. Miller, however, failed to respond or otherwise take any remedial action. In April of 2016, Defendants, including Miller, allegedly held a “safety meeting” at the facility where they harassed Thames about the incident and the complaints he had filed.

         On June 3, 2016, Thames received written notification that he was in violation of the lease agreement because he had an “unauthorized occupant” residing in his apartment. The letter advised Thames that the “unauthorized occupant” must vacate the premises or he would be evicted. Thames alleges that the “unauthorized occupant” referenced in the letter was his daily caregiver. According to Thames, Defendants knew that he would have a daily caregiver staying with him at the facility and never indicated that it was a problem until this letter was sent.

         Notwithstanding this letter, Defendants met with Thames on June 10, 2016, regarding his re-evaluation for the HUD lease. During this meeting, Defendants did not mention the letter nor did they raise the unauthorized occupant issue. Instead, Defendants re-certified Thames's HUD lease agreement for another year from August 2016 through July 2017.

         Soon after, on August 2, 2016, Roberson contacted local law enforcement and made a report regarding potential drug activity at Thames's apartment. Law enforcement subsequently obtained a warrant and searched Thames' residence, but no drugs were found and Thames was not arrested. Thames alleges that Defendants conspired together to make this false report so as to harass and embarrass him.

         Three days later, on August 5, 2016, Defendants filed an eviction action against Thames in the Winston County Justice Court. Defendants, however, failed to provide Thames with the requisite written notice to terminate the lease prior to filing the action. Then, on August 22, 2016, Thames received a hand-delivered letter from Defendants demanding that he vacate the premises by September 23, 2016, and charging Thames with three separate lease violations. Thames contends this letter marked the first time Defendants had made him aware of such charges.

         Despite this letter, the justice court entered an order dismissing the eviction action on September 28, 2016. Consequently, Thames continued to reside at the Focus Manor facility and, during this time, he alleges that Defendants continued to harass him in an incredibly hostile manner. Thames alleges that Defendants did so with the intent to make him vacate the premises on his own.

         On January 25, 2017, Defendants sent Thames a “Notification of Termination of Lease Thirty (30) Day Notice” in which they advised that termination of his lease would be effective on March 1, 2017. Defendants then accused Thames of two new lease violations, both of which allegedly occurred in the spring of 2016. At this point, Thames had “had enough” of Defendants' attempts to harass and embarrass him. Thus, Thames decided he would no longer oppose Defendants' efforts to evict him and would vacate the premises.

         Thames subsequently filed the instant suit against Defendants on June 1, 2017, asserting numerous causes of action including discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., discrimination in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehabilitation Act”), 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., breach of contract, misrepresentation, abuse of process, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and various other ...

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