Sporn v. Ocean Colony Condominium Ass'n
173 F. Supp. 2d 244 (D.N.J. 2001)
*245 *246 *247
Taylor, Boguski & Greenberg, by Robert Aaron Greenberg, Larchmont
Law & Professional Center, Mount Laurel, NJ, for Plaintiffs.
Stark & Stark by David J. Byrne, Princeton, NJ, for Defendants.
IRENAS, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of
Defendants Ocean Colony Condominium Association, Carol Ramchandani,
Charles Haines, Betsy Beaver, Fred Shoyer and Frank Pisaturo. For the
reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted.
Plaintiffs Leonard Sporn ("Mr.Sporn"), Dolores Sporn ("Mrs.Sporn"),
Amelia Thomas ("A.Thomas") and Rosemarie Thomas ("R.Thomas") were unit
owners at the Ocean Colony Condominium in Ocean City, New Jersey. The
dispute out of which this action arose began in January 1998 when
Defendant Ocean Colony Condominium Association ("the Association"),
through its Board of Trustees, a number of whom are named as defendants
in this case, issued a regulation in which an "Adult Lounge",
inaccessible to children, was created at Ocean Colony. (Compl.¶ 15). In
response to this regulation, Plaintiffs filed, in January 1999, a
petition with the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Development ("HUD") seeking a ruling on whether the exclusion of
children from the adult lounge violated the provisions of the Fair
Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. According to
Plaintiffs, Defendants allegedly responded to this complaint by engaging
in "a campaign to discredit the plaintiffs with other unit owners" and
"shunning" and "ostracizing" Plaintiffs. (Compl. at ¶ 17).
In March 2000, Plaintiffs filed the instant action against the
Association and several individual members of the Board of Trustees,
alleging that the creation of the adult lounge violated the FHA and that
Defendants' "retaliatory" actions constituted *248 unlawful interference with the exercise and enjoyment of Plaintiffs' FHA rights. (Compl.¶¶ 28, 31).
In addition, Plaintiffs assert a number of claims related to the
Defendants' treatment of Leonard Sporn. Mr. Sporn suffers from severe
spinal stenosis and is confined to a wheelchair. Plaintiffs assert that
Defendants failed, in a number of ways, to comply with their obligations
under the FHA and New Jersey law to "reasonably accommodate" Mr.
Sporn's handicap. Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants refused
to honor Mr. Sporn's request that he be provided with a handicapped
parking space adjacent to a wheelchair-accessible entrance to the
Condominium, and failed, in connection with renovations to the
Condominium made in 1999, to provide handicapped access to the building
and to the common area restrooms. (Compl.¶¶ 22-26).
Plaintiffs' final claim is that the actions of the Defendants
constitute intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
This Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1367.
"[S]ummary judgment is proper `if the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)).
The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., passed as
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and amended by the Fair
Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) of 1988 to protect handicapped persons,
provides that it is unlawful "to discriminate against any person in the
terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in
the provision of services in connection with such a dwelling, because of
the handicap of that person...." 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f) (2). The relevant
provisions of the FHA's definition of "discrimination" make unlawful:
A refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies,
practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to
afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; [and]
in connection with the design and construction of covered multifamily
dwellings for first occupancy after the date that is 30 months after
September 13, 1988, a failure to design and construct those dwellings in
such a manner that the public use and common use portions of such
dwellings are readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons
[and] all the doors designed to allow passage into and within all
premises within such dwellings are sufficiently wide to allow passage by
handicapped persons in wheelchairs.
42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(f) (3) (B), (C). Although Plaintiffs fail to cite
to any specific provisions FHA in their complaint and cite to
inapplicable provisions of the Act in the single paragraph discussing
the issue in their response to the instant motion, it appears from their
references to the denial of a "lawful accommodation" and their use of
language identical to that in § 3604(f) (3) (C) that their claims are
properly regarded as brought under the sections cited above.
*249 The evidence offered by Plaintiffs
relating to the inadequacy of Defendants' renovations under 3604(f) (3)
(C) is wholly insufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment.
Even assuming that the subsection's requirements relating to the design
and construction of "covered multifamily dwellings for first occupancy"
apply to renovations such as those alleged here (a proposition for which
Plaintiffs cite no legal authority), Plaintiffs have not offered a
single shred of evidence relating to the nature of renovations
undertaken, the condition of the facilities at issue prior to the
renovations or the alleged inadequacies of the Condominium after the
renovations. As the Supreme Court has noted, "a party opposing a
properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the
mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but ... must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986) (citation omitted). Here,
Plaintiffs have failed entirely to meet this requirement.
Plaintiffs claim of denial of reasonable accommodations under §
3604(f) (3) (B) is similarly without merit. While it is true that the
FHA's reasonable accommodation requirement "can and often will" involve
the imposition of some costs upon a landlord, Shapiro v. Cadman Towers, Inc., 51 F.3d 328, 334-335 (2d Cir. 1995); see also, Assisted Living Associates of Moorestown v. Moorestown Township, 996 F. Supp. 409,
434-435 (D.N.J.1998), accommodation is required only where such
measures "may be necessary to afford such a [handicapped] person equal
opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling" and need only be "reasonable."
42 U.S.C. § 3604(f) (3) (B); see also, Gavin v. Spring Ridge Conservancy, Inc., 934 F. Supp. 685,
687 (D.Md. 1995) (emphasizing that FHA does not require accommodation
wherever convenient or desired, but only where necessary). Given the
dearth of evidence offered by Plaintiffs relating to necessity of
Leonard Sporn's requested accommodations and the rather extensive
evidence offered by the Defendants relating to the reasonableness of
their efforts to accommodate Mr. Sporn, Plaintiffs claim cannot survive
the instant motion.
As mentioned, Plaintiffs have offered no evidence whatsoever
regarding the 1999 renovations to the Condominium or Plaintiff's claims
relating thereto. Therefore, those claims cannot stand, regardless of
the theory offered to support them. Accordingly, the only remaining
issue in this area relates to Mr. Sporn's claim of entitlement to a
handicapped parking space.
It has been recognized on numerous occasions that the FHA may, in
certain cases, entitle a handicapped tenant to a reserved parking space
adjacent to the tenant's dwelling. See, e.g., Jankowski Lee & Associates v. Cisneros, 91 F.3d 891, 895-896 (7th Cir.1996); Shapiro, 51 F.3d at 335; Hubbard v. Samson Management Corporation, 994 F. Supp. 187, 192 (S.D.N.Y.1998); Trovato v. City of Manchester, 992 F. Supp. 493, 498 (D.N.H. 1997); see also, 24 C.F.R. § 100.204, Example (2) (2001). Although Plaintiffs have not offered any evidence of the specific *250
nature of Mr. Sporn's handicap, or of the inadequacy of the parking
arrangements that pre-existed his request for accommodation, Defendants
do not appear to challenge the necessity of Plaintiff's accommodation,
but instead focus on the reasonableness of the accommodations they
attempted to provide. (See Def. Br. at 26).
"The reasonable accommodation inquiry is highly fact-specific, requiring a case-by-case determination." Hovsons, Inc. v. Township of Brick, 89 F.3d 1096, 1104 (3d cir.1996) (quoting United States v. California Mobile Home Park Management Co.,
29 F.3d 1413, 1418 (9th Cir. 1994)). Here, while Plaintiffs have
provided no evidence relating to Mr. Sporn's request for a handicapped
parking space, Defendants have demonstrated that they did, in fact, take
significant steps to provide Mr. Sporn with an acceptable accommodation
and never "refused" to permit such accommodations.
The FHA entitles a handicapped individual to "equal opportunity to
use and enjoy a dwelling." 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f) (3). Accordingly, "an
accommodation should not `extend a preference to handicapped residents
[relative to other residents], as opposed to affording them equal
opportunity'" and "accommodations that go beyond affording a handicapped
tenant `an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling' are not
required by the Act." Hubbard, 994 F. Supp. at 190 (citing United States v. California Mobile Home Park, 29 F.3d 1413, 1418 (9th Cir.1994) and Bryant Woods Inn, Inc. v. Howard Cty.
124 F.3d 597, 605 (4th Cir.1997)). In this case, in response to Leonard
Sporn's requests for a handicapped parking, the Association adopted a
"Handicapped Parking Policy" in December 1999. (Beaver Cert. ¶ 25). This
policy provided that "handicapped parking spaces [defined as spaces
closer to the Condominium entrance] shall be provided to residents"
provided that any resident seeking such a space "trade in their deeded
parking space for an Association owned space closer to the building
entrance." (Id., Ex. D) On its face, this policy grants the same
rights to handicapped tenants as it does non-handicapped residents. In
order to prevail on his discrimination claim, therefore, Mr. Sporn must
demonstrate that the Association's actions toward him individually
constituted a refusal to reasonably accommodate his handicap. This he
cannot do. According to his own testimony, the problems that arose
between the Association and Mr. Sporn began when Sporn demanded that he
be provided a handicapped space (a proposal to which Defendants agreed)
but refused to give up his non-handicapped, deeded space as required by
the Handicapped Parking Policy. (L. Sporn Dep. at 58-59). When asked why
he needed two spaces, Sporn did not offer any explanation related to
his handicap, but instead responded, "because during the summertime we
couldn't get any parking for any of our family that came down." (Id.).
These comments reveal that Sporn's request for "reasonable
accommodation" was really a request for accommodation coupled with a
demand for special treatment. Thus, Sporn's refusal to accept the
Association's proposed accommodation cannot provide the basis for an FHA
discrimination claim. As the Seventh Circuit noted in Jankowski,
the FHA only creates a right to a "reasonable accommodation," it "does
not create a right to an assigned handicapped space." 91 F.3d at 896.
Accordingly, the Court determines that the actions of the Association in
negotiating with Mr. Sporn and his attorneys about the creation of a
handicapped space (see Beaver Cert. at ¶¶ 11-24), promulgating
non-discriminatory handicapped parking regulations and *251
offering a handicapped space to Mr. Sporn several times even after he
had rejected the Association's proposal (see letters of Steven Scherzer
to Carl Bowman, Beaver Cert., Ex. F) constitute a "reasonable
accommodation" within the meaning of § 3604 of the Fair Housing Act and
that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to the claims contained
in Count III of Plaintiffs' Complaint should therefore be granted.
The primary contention involved in Plaintiffs' claim of unlawful
interference with FHA rights appears to be that Defendants' actions in
"shunning" them, allegedly in retaliation for Plaintiffs' filing of
their HUD complaint, constituted a violation of the FHA, 42 U.S.C. §
3617. Section 3617 provides that:
It shall be unlawful
to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with any person in the
exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having exercised or
enjoyed, or on account of his having aided or encourage any other person
in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by
section 3603, 3604, 3605 or 3606 of this title.
42 U.S.C. § 3617.
As one district court has noted, a plaintiff's "subjective beliefs of
intentional discrimination and retaliation" are "of course insufficient
to show an intentional discriminatory animus." Gavin, 934 F.
Supp. at 687. In their brief, Plaintiffs point to the deposition
testimony of a number of unit owners (including Plaintiffs) and to
statements made by Board member Carol Ramchandani as evidence of the
retaliatory actions taken by Defendants. This evidence, even when viewed
in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, amounts to nothing more than
repeated statements of Plaintiffs' subjective beliefs of discrimination
and is therefore insufficient to survive summary judgment.
Even if there were sufficient evidence to support an inference that
Plaintiffs were "shunned" in response to their HUD complaints, such
actions simply do not constitute "coercion, intimidation, threats or
interference" within the meaning of § 3617. The Fair Housing Act is
remedial legislation designed to address the very important goal of
providing accessibility to housing without regard to race, color,
religion, sex, familial status, national origin or disability. See generally,
42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, 3604. Consistent with this goal, the prohibitions of
§ 3617 operate to ensure that situations that need to remedied can be
brought to the attention of those with the power to effectuate the
necessary changes. Section 3617 does not, however, purport to impose a
code of civility on those dealing with individuals who have exercised
their FHA rights. Simply put, § 3617 does not require that neighbors
smile, say hello or hold the door for each other. To hold otherwise
would be to extend § 3617 to conduct it was never intended to address
and would have the effect of demeaning *252
the aims of the Act and the legitimate claims of plaintiffs who have
been subjected to invidious and hurtful discrimination and retaliation
in the housing market.
While "the language `interfere with' has been broadly applied to
`reach all practices which have the effect of interfering with the
exercise of rights' under the federal fair housing laws", Michigan Advocacy Serv. v. Babin,
18 F.3d 337, 347 (6th Cir.1994), a brief look at the cases in which §
3617 violations have been found demonstrates that "shunning" is not the
kind of behavior that interferes with FHA rights. See, e.g., Fowler v. Borough of Westville, 97 F. Supp. 2d 602 (D.N.J.2000) (use of building code and police harassment to drive handicapped plaintiffs out of their special residences); Byrd v. Brandeburg, 922 F. Supp. 60 (N.D.Ohio 1996) (tossing of Molotov cocktail onto porch of African-American residents); United States v. Sea Winds of Marco, Inc., 893 F. Supp. 1051
(M.D.Fla.1995) (requiring Hispanic tenants to wear special wrist bands
and subjecting them to excessive monitoring and racially-derogatory
remarks); Johnson v. Smith, 878 F. Supp. 1150 (N.D.Ill.1995) (cross burned in front yard of African-American family and brick thrown through their window); People Helpers v. City of Richmond, 789 F. Supp. 725
(E.D.Va.1992) (police "bullied" their way into and selectively searched
handicapped and African-American plaintiffs' apartments). While this
Court has, as Plaintiffs note, recognized that "violence or physical
coercion is not a prerequisite to a claim under § 3617," Fowler v. Borough of Westville, 97 F. Supp. 2d 602
(D.N.J.2000), the conduct complained of must nevertheless be of
sufficient magnitude to permit a finding of intimidation, coercion,
threats or interference. See, e.g., Babin, 18 F.3d at
347, 348 (holding that actions of defendants in engaging in economic
competition did not "rise to the level of interference with the rights
of plaintiffs" and that actions of neighbors, while interfering with
plaintiff's negotiations, were not "direct enough" to state a claim for
violation of § 3617). That said, the actions allegedly taken by
Defendants do not, even if taken for the reasons that Plaintiffs
suggest, constitute interference with any rights protected by § 3617.
Plaintiffs' final FHA claim is based on the designation of part of
the common area of the Condominium as an "adult lounge." Plaintiffs seek
an injunction "prohibiting the defendant from prohibiting reasonable
access to all person in common areas regardless of age." (Compl.¶
51(a)). However, it is undisputed that the former Adult Lounge was made
accessible to all residents by the Board on July 10, 1999, some eight
months prior to the filing of the instant suit. Accordingly, there is no
justiciable case or controversy on this issue and Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment will be granted. See City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95,
111, 103 S. Ct. 1660, 75 L. Ed. 2d 675 (1983) ("The equitable remedy is
unavailable absent a showing of irreparable injury, a requirement that
cannot be met where there is no showing of any real or immediate threat
that the plaintiff will be wronged again."); Anderson v. Davila, 125 F.3d 148, 163 (3d Cir.1997) ("A party seeking injunctive relief *253
must demonstrate that there exists some cognizable danger of recurrent
violation of its legal rights.") (citation omitted). Further, to the
extent that Plaintiffs are seeking damages on their claim regarding the
adult lounge (it is unclear whether they are doing so), their claim
fails as they have not demonstrated that they suffered any injuries as a
result of the Association's policy. (See A. Thomas Dep. at 24, 31-34;
R. Thomas Dep. at 16, 21; L. Sporn Dep. at 15-17; D. Sporn Dep. at 20).
Plaintiffs also assert a number of state law claims related to their
dispute with the Association. Although Plaintiffs do not cite to any
specific provisions of New Jersey law to support their contentions, they
appear to argue that Defendants' actions violated the provisions of the
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("LAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq.
Since Plaintiffs in their brief focus exclusively on their Fair Housing
Act claims and do not clarify the vague assertions made in their
Complaint, Defendants (and the Court) are forced to speculate as to the
specific claims asserted under the LAD. While Defendants point to a
number of provisions of the LAD on which Plaintiffs claims could be
based, Plaintiffs do not address these arguments in their response.
Accordingly, the Court will assume that Defendants have correctly
identified the specific LAD provisions implicated by Plaintiffs' claims.
The provision of the LAD which deals specifically with the
accommodation of handicapped persons in housing is N.J.S.A. 10:5-12.4,
which states that "a failure to design and construct any multi-family
dwelling of four units or more in accordance with barrier free standards
promulgated by the Commissioner of Community Affairs ... shall be an
unlawful discrimination." As with Plaintiffs' FHA claims, there has been
offered no evidence whatsoever regarding the legal obligations of
Defendants to comply with 10:5-12.4 or the actions that Defendants did
or did not take with regard to the 1999 renovations. Accordingly, any
claims that Plaintiffs intended to assert in this area cannot survive
the instant motion.
Plaintiffs also contend that the filing of their HUD complaint was
protected by the LAD and that Defendants' actions interfered with that
protected conduct. Like the FHA, the LAD contains an anti-retaliation
provision that makes it unlawful to "take reprisals against any person
because that person has opposed any practices or acts forbidden under
this act ... or to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with any
person in the exercise or enjoyment of ... any right granted or
protected by this act." N.J.S.A. 10:5-12. Although "it is
well-established that the LAD is intended to be New Jersey's remedy for
unacceptable discrimination and is to be construed liberally," Franek v. Tomahawk Lake Resort, 333 N.J.Super. 206, 217, 754 A.2d 1237 (App.Div.2000); see also, Cedeno v. Montclair State Univ.,
163 N.J. 473, 478, 750 A.2d 73 (2000), the Court would simply be
stretching the definition of "interference" too far if it were to hold
that a lack of friendliness and civility between neighbors caused by a
dispute over the use of their Condominium constitutes a violation of the
LAD. While there *254 are,
no doubt, a variety of ways that these Defendants could have unlawfully
retaliated against Plaintiffs under the LAD, mere "shunning", without
more, is not one of them.
Finally, Plaintiffs assert claims for intentional and negligent
infliction of emotional distress against Defendants. To state a claim
for intentional infliction of emotional distress under New Jersey Law, a
plaintiff must demonstrate severe emotional distress resulting from
conduct that is "so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree,
as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as
atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Buckley v. Trenton Saving Fund Society, 111 N.J. 355, 367, 544 A.2d 857 (citing Restatement (Second) of Torts,
§ 46). In this case, Defendants' actions in response to what they
perceived as unnecessary antagonism and meritless and expensive
litigation created by Plaintiffs simply cannot be said to rise to the
level of outrageous conduct required before a recovery for intentional
infliction of emotional distress is permitted. Thus, summary judgment on
this claim is appropriate.
As to Plaintiffs' claim for negligent infliction of emotional
distress, it should be noted that New Jersey recognizes two types of
claims in this area. The first group of claims encompasses cases "in
which a person who is the direct object of a tortfeasor's negligence
experiences severe emotional trauma as a result of the tortfeasor's
negligent act or omission." Gendek v. Poblete, 139 N.J. 291, 296,
654 A.2d 970 (1995). Second, a plaintiff may prevail on a so-called
"indirect claim" for negligent infliction of emotional distress where "a
person, not otherwise a direct object of a tortfeasor's negligence,
experiences severe emotional distress when another person suffers
serious or fatal injuries as a result of that negligence." Id. As there are no "serious or fatal" injuries involved in this case, Plaintiffs' claims must treated as "direct".
The analysis of direct claims of negligent infliction of emotional
distress "involves traditional concepts of duty, breach and causation"
and "determining defendant's negligence depends on whether defendant
owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, which is analyzed in terms of
foreseeability." Williamson v. Waldman, 150 N.J. 232, 239, 696
A.2d 14 (1997). In this case, it cannot be said that Defendants conduct
breached any duty of care owed to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs allege, in
essence, that Defendants were obligated to be as friendly to Plaintiffs
after the filing of the HUD complaints and the instant lawsuit as they
were before. This contention simply has no basis in the law of
negligence. Any duty of care that exists between neighbors simply does
not extend to the niceties of day-to-day interactions. In this case,
Plaintiffs and Defendants were involved in a dispute over the
regulations and policies of the Association at Ocean Colony. This
dispute had dragged on for a number of years and had cost each side
thousands of dollars in legal fees. Given that context, it cannot be
said that the Defendants's conduct in ignoring Plaintiffs or failing to
say hello in the hallways gives rise to a claim for negligent infliction
of emotional distress. Defendants neither owed Plaintiffs a duty of
civility, nor would they, under the circumstances, be considered to have
breached any such duty were one to exist. Accordingly, Plaintiff claim
for negligent *255 infliction of emotional distress must be dismissed.
In conjunction with their response to the instant motion, Plaintiffs
filed a request that, rather than deciding the case against them on the
merits, the Court permit Plaintiffs to voluntarily dismiss their case
without prejudice under Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Rule 41(a) (2) provides that once a defendant files an answer or motion
for summary judgment, a plaintiff may not voluntarily dismiss its
action "save upon order to the court." Generally, a motion for dismissal
"should not be denied absent substantial prejudice to the defendant." Johnston Development Group, Inc. v. Carpenters Local Union No. 1578, 728 F. Supp. 1142, 1146 (D.N.J.1990) (Brotman, J.) (quoting Andes v. Versant Corp., 788 F.2d 1033, 1036 (4th Cir.1986)); see also,
9 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and
Procedure § 2364 (2d ed.1995). In determining whether a voluntary
dismissal is likely to result in prejudice to the defendant, the factors
to be considered include "the expense of a second litigation, the
effort and expense incurred by a defendant in preparing for trial in the
current case, the extent to which the current case has progressed, and
plaintiff's diligence in bringing the motion to dismiss." Palmer v. Security National Bank, 2001 WL 877584, at * 1 (E.D.Pa. June 13, 2001) (citing Maleski v. DP Realty Trust,
162 F.R.D. 496, 498 (E.D.Pa.1995)). An examination of these factors as
they relate to this case leads to the conclusion that Plaintiffs' motion
should be denied. This case was originally filed in March 2000 and the
dispute underlying it has been going on for almost four years. In
addition, the instant motion has, due in large part to the disappearance
of Plaintiffs' former attorney, been pending for nearly four months.
Further, significant discovery has already been conducted, the merits of
the legal issues involved are determinable and Defendants have incurred
substantial expense both in defending the merits of the case and in
simply attempting to keep this case moving along toward resolution.
Finally, while it is indeed unfortunate that Plaintiffs appear to have
gotten a raw deal from their former attorney, they have known since May
2001 that that attorney would no longer be representing them but did not
retain new counsel or seek to dismiss their action until now.
Accordingly, because Defendants would suffer substantial prejudice as a
result of voluntary dismissal without prejudice and because the merits
of the instant motion can be readily reached, Plaintiffs motion for
voluntary dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a) (2) shall be denied.
For the reasons set forth above, Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment will be granted and Plaintiffs' Motion to Voluntarily Dismiss
will be denied. The Court will enter an appropriate order.
 It should be further noted that there are some vague allusions
in Plaintiffs' papers to the requirements of § 3604(f) (3) (A), which
require that a landlord permit a tenant to modify the existing premises
so as to make them handicapped accessible where such modifications would
help the handicapped tenant attain "full enjoyment" of the premises.
However, such modifications need only be permitted "at the expense of
the handicapped person" and, as Defendants point out, there is no
evidence that Plaintiffs ever offered to pay for the modifications to
the restrooms and the facility entrance.
 Plaintiffs rely heavily on a statement made by Carol Ramchandani
to the effect that the other unit owners should "shun the people that
create the disturbance." While Plaintiffs contend that this statement
was targeted at Plaintiffs, the overwhelming evidence suggests that it
instead referred to problems caused by another unit owner who had
allegedly threatened Defendants with violence in response to the
handling of the community room issue. Thus, even viewing the facts and
inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, Pollock v. American Tel. & Tel. Long Lines,
794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986), the Court determines that no
reasonable finder of fact could, after considering Ramchandani's
statements in their proper context, draw the inferences that Plaintiffs
 Plaintiffs also point to Leonard Sporn's testimony that he
believed that the installation of a new front door at the Condominium
was delayed because of the filing of his complaints. However, the
evidence offered (which consists of a statement made to Sporn by a city
inspector based on a conversation between the inspector and the
contractor charged with the installation of the new door) is
insufficient to permit an inference of a retaliatory motive for this
 Relevant to the Court's interpretation of this provision is that
N.J.S.A. 10:5-12 was amended in 1992 to add reference to coercion,
intimidation, threats and interference and that this additional language
is identical to that incorporated into the Fair Housing Act. Therefore,
given that New Jersey courts have often looked to federal standards in
interpreting the LAD, see, e.g., Grigoletti v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., 118 N.J. 89, 97, 570 A.2d 903
(1990) ("The substantive and procedural standards that we have
developed under the State's LAD have been markedly influenced by the
federal experience."), the Court considers those cases interpreting the
provisions of § 3617 of the FHA discussed above instructive in
determining the proper scope of the LAD's anti-retaliation provision.