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Barber v. Pennsylvania Dept. Agriculture


The plaintiffs in this Pennsylvania case are owners and operators of a non-profit animal rescue and kennel that houses housing about 500 dogs doing business in and throughout Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The current dispute stems from a series of inspections of the kennels that occurred throughout the 2007 calendar year. Plaintiffs allege that defendants conspired in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and that the PSPCA and the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement (the inspection branch of the Dept. of Agriculture) failed to take reasonable steps to protect them from the conspiratorial activity in violation of 42 U.S .C. § 1986. Plaintiffs also state that the PSPCA and the Bureau violated various of their constitutional rights in contravention of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Plaintiffs also seek to hold the Defendants liable for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S .C. § 1983. Finally, other counts allege that Defendant Delenick sexually harassed Plaintiff Rachel Lappe-Biler in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; that plaintiff Pauline Gladys Bryner-Lappe was assaulted and battered in contravention of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment; and that the defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss all claims.

Bassani v. Sutton


Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit in 2008 claiming money damages under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1988,and  alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In 2004, plaintiffs two dogs were seized by Yakima County Animal Control after responding to a citizen's report that he had been menaced by dogs as he ran past plaintiff's house. Before the court here are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint. In granting the motions, the court held that the doctrine of res judicata did warrant a grant of summary judgment as defendants' failure to release plaintiff's dog. Further, the animal control officer was entitled to qualified immunity because he reasonably relied on the deputy prosecuting attorney's advice. Finally, there was no evidence of a pattern of behavior on the part of Yakima County sufficient to be a "moving force" behind a constitutional violation.

Becker v. Elfreich Appellant, Officer Zachary Elfreich, went to the home of Appellee Jamie Becker in order to execute an arrest warrant. When Becker did not surrender right away, Officer Elfreich allowed his police dog to find and attack Becker. Upon seeing Becker, Officer Elfreich pulled him down three steps of the home staircase, and placed his knee on Becker’s back while allowing the dog to continue to bite him. Becker sued the city of Evansville and Officer Elfreich under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the officer used excessive force in arresting him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied Officer Elfreich's motion for summary judgment and the officer appealed. The Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, held that: first, under the totality of the circumstances, the force used by the officer post-surrender of Becker was not reasonable. Second, a police dog's use of the “bite and hold” technique is not per se deadly force. Third, Becker, was a nonresisting (or at most passively resisting) suspect when Officer Elfreich saw him near the bottom of the staircase and the officer should not have used significant force on him. Based on these factors, the officer was not entitled to qualified immunity and a reasonable jury could find such force was excessive. The lower court decision to deny Officer Elfreich's motion for summary judgment was affirmed.
Berardelli v. Allied Services Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine This case presents an issue of first impression in the Court of Appeals: whether regulations on service animals, which technically apply only to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), require that individuals with disabilities be allowed to be accompanied by their service animals under the Rehabilitation Act (RA). The facts involve an elementary student with dyslexia and epilepsy who sought to be accompanied by her service dog to school. The dog was trained to respond to her epileptic seizures and was recommended by her pediatric neurologist. The student was attending a new school after having attended a different school with her service animal who recently died. After receiving a new service animal (after being placed on a waiting list), the principal of the new school refused access for the service animal, asserting for the first time that the dog was "too much of a distraction." As a consequence of the denial, the student missed school when her seizures were too severe. After more than a year of disrupted attendance, the student's mother sought to have the seizure alert dog accompany the child to fifth grade, and the principal said he would "look into" it. Frustrated with the equivocation, the mother attempted to bring the service animal with the child and the principal prevented entrance, now saying another child had an allergy to dogs. Eventually, the dog was allowed to accompany the child with a "therapeutic shirt designed to decrease allergens," but the shirt interfered with the service animal's performance of disability-related tasks. In the end, the mother withdrew the child from this particular school. The child's parent subsequently sued the school, arguing that the school had failed to accommodate the child under Section 504 of the RA. The school moved for summary judgment on all claims. Important to the claim of discrimination under the RA, the District Court instructed the jury that on a claim for failure to accommodate, the plaintiff needed to prove that that the requested accommodations were reasonable and necessary to avoid discrimination based on disability. The jury was confused at the instructions and the child's attorney urged the court to instruct the jury on ADA service animal regulations. The Court refused saying it had “g[iven] them the law that relates to this case” and would not “go look for some new law to tell them about or some different law or something that’s not been already submitted or given to them.” The jury subsequently returned a verdict for the school. On appeal here, appellants argue that, because the subjective standards for liability under the RA and ADA are the same, the service animal regulations of the ADA should apply to the RA. The Court of Appeals first examined the history and relationship of the ADA and its precursor, the RA. Based on the overarching goal of both laws - to ensure equal opportunity and inclusion - the requirements of reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications are inextricably intertwined. Regardless of the differing entities the statutes cover, they both impose the same liability standard based on this concept of "reasonableness." The Court also found this echoed in case law dealing with a failure to accommodate under both laws. As to the service animal regulations under the ADA, the Court held that, logically, the service animal regulations are relevant to the RA even though they technically interpret the ADA. This is supported by agency guidance in other contexts from HUD, the Dept. of Justice, and the Dept. of Labor. The Court found the school's counter arguments unpersuasive especially considering the legal principle that an anti-discrimination statute like the RA must be interpreted broadly to carry out its broad remedial purpose. In essence, the Court now holds that a covered actor must accommodate the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability under the RA just as it must do under the ADA. While the "reasonableness" of that accommodation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, the request to be accompanied by a service animal is per se reasonable. Applying that holding to these facts, the Court found that the District Court did not correctly instruct the jury on the relevant law. The error was not harmless, and, despite the school's claim, there was not a high probability that the jury would have ruled in its favor if properly instructed. The judgment was vacated on the RA claim, reversed on the dismissal of the state discrimination claim, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condominium Assn. Appellee Ajit Bhogaita, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), filed suit against Appellant Altamonte Heights Condominium Association, Inc. ("Association") for violating the disability provisions of the Federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(b) (“FHA”) and the Florida Fair Housing Act, when it enforced its pet weight policy and demanded Bhogaita remove his emotional support dog from his condominium. The jury awarded Bhogaita $5,000 in damages, and the district court awarded Bhogaita more than $100,000 in attorneys' fees. This court affirmed that decision finding that there was evidence that the Association constructively denied appellee's requested accommodation. In fact, the court opined, "Neither Bhogaita's silence in the face of requests for information the Association already had nor his failure to provide information irrelevant to the Association's determination can support an inference that the Association's delay reflected an attempt at meaningful review."
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Inc. v. Vilsack In an amended complaint, Plaintiffs asserted four claims against Defendants relating to a May 7, 2013 United States Department of Agriculture inspection of Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Inc. The claims included a Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the Inspector Defendants “because they acted under color of state law when they induced the deputies to cut the chains and enter the premises;” a declaratory judgment “declaring that [Defendant] Thompson inappropriately overrode the medical advice of [Plaintiff] Big Cats' veterinarians and declaring that, in the future, the USDA cannot force [Plaintiff] Sculac to choose between following the medical advice of his veterinarians and the mandates of a USDA inspector;” and a declaratory judgment that the USDA must follow its own regulations and that it cannot conduct a warrantless search of the Big Cats facility outside of ‘normal business hours' solely because an inspector ‘want [s] to’ or because an inspector subjectively ‘believe[s][it] necessary to determine the welfare status of the animals....' ” In addition to declaratory relief, Plaintiffs also sought compensatory and punitive damages, costs, expenses, and prejudgment interest. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. US Magistrate Judge issued a recommendation that, to the extent the Motion argued that the declaratory judgment claims should be dismissed because Plaintiffs lack standing, the Motion be granted in part and denied in part and that the declaratory judgment claims asserted by Plaintiffs Nick Sculac, Julie Walker, and Jules Investment, Inc. be dismissed without prejudice. In all other aspects, the Magistrate recommended that the Motion be denied. A District Court judge approved and adopted these recommendations and denied defendant’s objections to the recommendations.
Bjugan v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co.


After a house was damaged by a tenant’s 95 cats and 2 dogs, a landlord sought to recover expenses through State Farm Insurance. State Farm, however, denied the landlord coverage due to a provision in the insurance policy that excluded damages caused by domestic animals. In a diversity action brought by the landlord, the district court found the damage caused by the tenant’s cats fell within State Farm’s policy exclusion and therefore granted State Farm’s motion for summary judgment.

Black v. Coughlin


Prisoner brought action under § 1983 against commissioner of state department of correctional services to recover damages for punishment imposed as a result of improperly conducted disciplinary hearing.

Bogart v. Chapell


A woman was housing hundreds of animals in her residential home, the animals were seized and more than two hundred of them were euthanized.  The woman brought a section 1983 claim against the county sheriff's department and human society.  The trial court granted defendants summary judgment and the Court of Appeals affirmed holding no viable due process claim existed arising from the euthanization. 

Bone v. Vill. Club, Inc. This case dealt with a woman's request to have her emotional-support dog live with her before purchasing land in a mobile home community, known as Brookhaven. Prior to purchasing her lot, the plaintiff allegedly received permission from the president of Brookhaven's board of directors to keep her dog, even though the plaintiff was purchasing a lot in the "no pet" section of Brookhaven. The plaintiff provided the president of the board with the documentation requested, and the president told plaintiff she had been approved by the board to have her dog. Approximately one year after plaintiff purchased her lot, Brookhaven's attorney sent a letter requesting that plaintiff remove her dog, citing Brookhaven's policies disallowing her dog. After several letters sent back and forth between plaintiff's attorney and Brookhaven's attorney concerning requirements of the Fair Housing Act and the party's respective actions, both parties cross-moved for summary judgement. The court held that 1) genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether tenant had an actual disability; 2) landlord was not prejudiced by tenant's untimely disclosure of expert report; 3) genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether landlord constructively denied tenant an accommodation; and 4) genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether landlord retaliated against tenant for requesting a disability accommodation. As a result, all motions for summary judgement were denied.

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