HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - PLAINTIFF SUPERIOR COURT 51 STATE
HOUSE STATION KENNEBEC, SS. AUGUSTA ME 04333 Docket No
AUGSC-CV-2018-00049 Attorney for: MAINE HUMAN RIGHTS
COMMISSION BARBARA ARCHER HIRSCH - RETAINED MAINE HUMAN
& L APARTMENTS - DEFENDANT Attorney for: D & L
APARTMENTS PHILLIP E JOHNSON - RETAINED JOHNSON WEBBERT &
DARRELL SPROUL - DEFENDANT Attorney for: DARRELL SPROUL
PHILLIP E JOHNSON - RETAINED JOHNSON WEBBERT & YOUNG LLP
ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
William R. Stokes, Justice
matter is before the court on the motion for summary judgment
filed by Defendants D & L Apartments and Darrell Sproul.
case involves a one count complaint against D & L
Apartments (D & L) and its owner, Darrell Sproul
(Sproul), alleging housing discrimination on the basis of
disability. Pl's Compl. ¶¶ 19-22.
controversy arose when Justin Engstrom called Mr. Sproul on
June 10, 2016, to inquire about renting an apartment. Mr.
Engstrom was a veteran with PTSD who had recently moved back
to Maine after living in Colorado for the prior two years.
(Pl's Statement of Material Facts (S.M.F.),
¶¶15-16, 20, 25.) Although he had yet to do so, Mr.
Engstrom was planning on acquiring an assistance animal,
namely a dog. To that end, he had contacted Dogs 4 Warriors,
an Ohio non-profit that connects veterans with assistance
animals, and was expecting to get an assistance dog as soon
as he could find appropriate housing for the dog and himself,
having been on their wait list since before moving back to
Maine. S.M.F. ¶¶ 16-19, 23-24.
Mr. Engstrom called Mr. Sproul to inquire about housing, he
asked Mr. Sproul about dogs, at which point Mr. Engstrom
states that Mr. Sproul's demeanor changed - Mr. Sproul
was adamant that there be absolutely no dogs, and would not
let Mr. Engstrom get another word in. S.M.F. ¶¶
29-35. Part of the controversy in this case, and the major
point where the parties disagree, is what precisely was said
during that brief phone call; although he never mentioned
that he suffered from PTSD or anything specific, Mr. Engstrom
believes he may have mentioned that he was
"handicapped."' Engstrom Depo, 58:21 -59:1;
61:20-25.More importantly, the parties disagree on what
precisely was said about assistance animals. Mr. Engstrom
stated that he specified that he wished to have a
"therapy dog," and also mentioned specifically
"federally-protected, certified service or therapy
dogs." S.M.F. ¶¶ 31, 33. D & L and Sproul,
on the other hand, generally argue that Mr. Engstrom did not
get into specifics, and challenges how much was said about
assistance animals. Def's Reply to Pl's Opp. S.M.F.
¶¶ 30 - 35. The phone call ended with Mr. Sproul
telling Mr. Engstrom not to bother filling out an
application, since it would be denied. S.M.F. ¶ 36.
judgment is appropriate where 'the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, referred to in
the statements required by subdivision (h) show that there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact set forth in those
statements and that any party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.'" Town of Windham v. Christopher
A. Bond, No. CV-16-94, 2016 Me. Super. LEXIS 108, at *2
(July 13, 2016) (citing M.R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "In
examining the statements of material facts submitted pursuant
to subdivision (h), [a] genuine issue of material fact exists
when the evidence requires a fact-finder to choose between
competing versions of the truth." Arrow Fastener Co.
v. Wrabacon, Inc., 2007 ME 34, ¶ 15, 917 A.2d 123
(citing Farrington's Owner's Ass'n v. Conway
Lake Resorts, Inc., 2005 ME 93, ¶ 9, 878 A.2d 504).
Even if one party's version of the facts appears
significantly more credible and persuasive, summary judgment
is inappropriate "if a genuine factual dispute exists
that is material to the outcome." Arrow
Fastener, 2007 ME 34, ¶ 17, 917 A.2d 123; see
also Emerson v. Sweet, 432 A.2d 784, 787 n.6 (Me. 1981)
("Thus, the failure of proof, not the relative weight
assigned to evidence should control the Court's
disposition of the motion."). Thus, as the Law Court has
stated, although summary judgment "is no longer an
extreme remedy, it is not a substitute for trial."
Curtis v. Porter, 2001 ME 158, ¶ 7, 784 A.2d