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Seamster v. Edgewater Systems

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

June 1, 2015

DEBORAH R. NELSON SEAMSTER, Plaintiff
v.
EDGEWATER SYSTEMS, Defendant

OPINION AND ORDER

Jon E. DeGuilio Judge

Deborah Seamster filed a pro se complaint against Mansards Apartments and Edgewater Systems[1] in August 2013 claiming that those entities had violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Ms. Seamster alleged that Mansards Apartments refused to accommodate her disabilities and took money from her; her claims against that apartment complex were dismissed in February of this year. Still pending are Ms. Seamster’s claims that Edgewater wrongfully removed her from the program that assisted her in paying her rent.

This cause is now before the court on Edgewater’s motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. In accordance with Appendix C to the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, entitled “Notice to Pro Se Litigant, ” Edgewater provided Ms. Seamster with the text of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56-1 to assist her in responding to the company’s summary judgment motion. Ms. Seamster filed a timely response, and Edgewater a reply. For the reasons that follow, the court grants Edgewater’s motion.

FACTS

The parties’ dispute in this action relates to Deborah Seamster’s termination from participation in the Shelter Plus Care Program in the Gary, Indiana area. Edgewater reports that the Program was implemented and is funded by the United States Department of Housing and Development; the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority administers the Program in this state. The purpose of the Program is to provide “permanent housing in connection with supportive services to homeless people with disabilities, ” including “rental assistance and assistance for utilities for a variety of housing choices.” Deft. Exh. 2, at 3. The Program uses grant funds “to pay the difference between the actual rent for a unit and 30 percent of the participant’s adjusted income. . . . Grant funds can also be used to help offset utility costs paid by the participant if utilities are not included in the rent. Where rent does not include utilities, the tenant’s contribution is reduced to allow for a reasonable utility allowance.” Deft. Exh. 2, at 8-9. Shelter Plus will also pay, “when necessary, a security deposit in an amount up to one month’s rent.” Deft. Exh. 2, at 9. Edgewater reports that Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living, Inc. is part of the Shelter Plus Care Program; Edgewater administers the program locally by using grant funds to pay a portion of the rent for qualified participants.

Deborah Seamster entered into a Shelter Plus Care Program Agreement on January 3, 2013 to receive supportive housing services from Edgewater. Deft. Exh. 1 (Seamster Dep.), Exh. O. Ms. Seamster acknowledged when she signed the agreement that the rules of the Program had been explained to her, she would comply with all services outlined in her treatment plan, maintain medication compliance, and attend psychiatric appointments, and she understood that “failure to follow through with the terms of [the] agreement will result in termination from the Shelter Plus Care Program.” Seamster Dep., Exh. O. The agreement provides that a resident can be removed from the Program and have their rental assistance terminated based on any of the following: violation of the landlord-tenant agreement; engaging in illegal activity; moving to other HUD funded or subsidized housing; moving voluntarily or without notice; being incarcerated for more than 30 days or hospitalized for medical or psychiatric reasons for more than 90 days; submitting incorrect information; subleasing to another person; or failing to comply with the financial portion of the rental assistance. Seamster Dep., Exh. O.

Edgewater first placed Ms. Seamster in an apartment at the Lakeshore Dunes Apartments in Gary, Indiana. She was evicted from that complex on or about January 31, 2013. Edgewater says that based on her eviction from Lakeshore Dunes, Ms. Seamster could have been terminated from the Program, but, instead, Edgewater retained her in the Program and located another apartment for her at the Mansards Apartments in Griffith, Indiana. Ms. Seamster claims she slept in a rental truck for two to three weeks while waiting for another apartment. Pltf. Resp., at 2-3. Ms. Seamster signed her lease for an apartment at Mansards on February 14, 2013. Deft. Exh. 3, at 4.

Ms. Seamster says she understood that her portion of the monthly rent was $100.94 and that she was responsible for paying her utilities. She says she paid her portion of the rent from March 1 through July 1, 2013, but during that time received late fee and eviction notices, and late fees were added to the amount she owed. Ms. Seamster reports that she contacted her Shelter Plus case manager, Mansards management, and the president of Edgewater, but she couldn’t get the matter resolved. Resp., at 3.

On July 10, Ms. Seamster received a letter from her Shelter Plus case manager at Edgewater informing her that she was being terminated from the Program, effective August 10, for violations of her lease with Mansards Apartments and non-compliance with the financial portion of the rental assistance agreement with Edgewater. Mansards thereafter commenced eviction proceedings against Ms. Seamster based on its claims that she owed $2, 140 in past-due rent and other charges under the lease and she violated the lease by verbally threatening numerous people and allegedly pointing a taser in their direction. Ms. Seamster maintains that all of those claims are untrue. On October 23, 2012, a Hammond City Court judge issued an order directing Ms. Seamster to vacate her apartment on or before October 29 and appear at a hearing on damages to be held in December.

On August 1, 2013, Ms. Seamster filed her complaint in this court alleging that her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated when Edgewater wrongfully terminated her from the Shelter Plus Care Program. She asks that the court order that she be reinstated to the Program and that the eviction process be stopped.

Edgewater has moved for summary judgment on Ms. Seamster’s claims because, the company says, her termination from the Shelter Plus Program wasn’t based on any disability.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to the interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists whenever “there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, “the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Weigle v. SPX Corp., 729 F.3d 724, 730 (7th Cir. 2013). The existence of an alleged factual dispute, by itself, will not defeat a summary judgment motion; “instead, the nonmovant must present definite, competent evidence in rebuttal, ” Parent v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. 2012), and “must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). “[S]ummary judgment ...


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