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Ledford v. Williams

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

November 5, 2019

KATRIKA WILLIAMS, Community Manager Property Manager/Agent for Owner, in her individual and official capacity, et al., Defendants.



         The operative “pleading” in this case, brought by pro se Plaintiff Carl Lee Ledford, is located at docket entry 44. The named Defendants are Katrika Williams, Amy Gepfert, and Elisa Cupp, all of whom are employees of another named Defendant, Monroe Group, Ltd. (Monroe Group). Monroe Group is the property manager for East Central Towers, an apartment complex located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Plaintiff was a tenant of the East Central Towers. Another named Defendant, Community Housing Concepts East Central, LLC (Community Housing), owns East Central Towers. Finally, Plaintiff has sued the Indiana Housing and [Community] Development Authority (IHCDA). His lawsuit centers around the termination of his lease and the assessment of late fees and rent.

         Plaintiff was previously granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis on grounds that he was unable to pay the filing fee [ECF No. 3]. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 52], filed by Williams, Gepfert, Cupp, Community Housing, and Monroe Group. Plaintiff has filed a Memorandum in Response [ECF No. 55], and Defendants filed a Reply [ECF No. 56]. For the reasons set forth in this Opinion and Order, the Court finds that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the federal claims, and that Plaintiff cannot proceed on any claims against IHDCA.


         Summary judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The non-moving party must marshal and present the Court with evidence on which a reasonable jury could rely to find in their favor. Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). A court must deny a motion for summary judgment when the nonmoving party presents admissible evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't of Corrs., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). A court's role in deciding a motion for summary judgment “is not to sift through the evidence, pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to believe. The court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994).

         Facts that are outcome determinative under the applicable law are material for summary judgment purposes. Smith ex rel. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th Cir. 1997). Although a bare contention that an issue of material fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 491-92 (7th Cir. 2000), and avoid “the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true, ” Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003).

         Plaintiff has responded to Defendants' Motion, but has also invoked Rule 54(d), arguing that the motion is premature because the parties have not engaged in discovery. Rule 54(d) permits a nonmovant to show “by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). The court may defer considering the motion, allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery, or issue any other appropriate order. Id.

         “Rule 56 does not require that discovery take place in all cases before summary judgment can be granted. In fact, the Seventh Circuit has noted that ‘the fact that discovery is not complete-indeed has not begun-need not defeat a motion for summary judgment.'” Waterloo Furniture Components, Ltd. v. Haworth, Inc., 467 F.3d 641, 648 (7th Cir. 2006) (quoting Am. Nurses' Ass'n. v. Ill., 783 F.2d 716, 729 (7th Cir. 1986)) (internal citations and brackets omitted). A party seeking Rule 56(d)'s protection must make a good faith showing that it cannot respond to the movant's affidavit. Kalis v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 231 F.3d 1049, 1058 n.5 (7th Cir. 2000). This requires an affidavit from the non-movant specifically identifying the material facts that it anticipates discovering. See Grundstat v. Ritt, 166 F.3d 867, 873 (7th Cir. 1999) (finding vague assertions that discovery would develop genuine issues of material fact insufficient to grant continuance). Rule 56(d) “requires a party opposing summary judgment to do more than request a ‘fishing expedition' in the hope of finding evidence sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Cima v. WellPoint Health Networks, Inc., 556 F.Supp.2d 901, 905 (S.D. Ill. 2008) (citing Davis v. G.N. Mortgage Corp., 396 F.3d 869, 885 (7th Cir. 2005)).

         This litigation has been ongoing for over a year. Although Plaintiff claims the motion for summary judgment is premature, he has not identified any material fact that would be discoverable. Rather, Plaintiff states that discovery is necessary to “properly address issues of additional supporting evidence of foul conduct.” (Pl.'s Resp. 7, ECF No. 55.) This vague response does not provide any grounds to defer considering Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations, or to take discovery. Accordingly, the Court will rule on the Motion for Summary Judgment.


         Around August 2012, Plaintiff was approved for residency in an apartment at East Central Towers. Community Housing owns East Central Towers, which is managed by Monroe Group. East Central Towers is a Section 8 recipient through the IHCDA. Because Plaintiff was indigent, his initial rent was appropriated at $0.00.

         Beginning in 2013, Plaintiff's annual recertification for reduced rental eligibility was conducted every August. In June 2016, Plaintiff began receiving monthly disability payments of $735.00. A Lease Amendment dated June 9, 2017, advised Plaintiff that his payment would be $25.00 beginning in August 2017. However, he was also scheduled for recertification on August 1, 2018.

         Upon recertification, and due to his receipt of disability income, Williams and Gepfert appropriated Plaintiff's rent at $187.00, beginning on November 1, 2017. His utility allowance remained at $34.00. Plaintiffs Residence Ledger reveals these changes, and shows Plaintiffs payment of the amounts due around the 5th of each month.

         On March 1, 2018, Plaintiff received a Notice of Utility Allowance and Rent Change. Williams, in her Affidavit, states that the Notice advised Plaintiff that his utility bill was to be decreased by $1.00, and his rent would increase by the same amount, $1.00. While those were the actual changes, the Notice contains a discrepancy at the beginning of paragraph three when it references an increase in the utility allowance and corresponding decrease in rent. The Notice provided:

         Attention AH Household Members:

This is to notify you that Indiana Quadel and HUD have reviewed and approved the owner's required annual analysis of the utility allowance for your Section 8 Unit at East Central Towers. During this process, both parties considered all information provided by project management as well as any comments provided by tenants during the 30-day comment period.
Pursuant to this assessment, HUD has approved a change in your utility allowance from $34.00 to $33.00 effective 04/01/2018.
This letter shall also serve as your 30-day notification that your monthly rent will Decrease by the same aiJjPMn} that your utility allowance increased. Effective 04/01/2018. your new monthly rent will be $188.00) . This notice amends Paragraph 3 of your lease agreement, which sets forth the amount of rent you pay each month.
You have the right to meet with management to discuss this rent change. Please contact the office if you ...

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