Drazen v. Town of Stratford
To allege a prima facie case of disparate treatment under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a plaintiff must produce evidence that animus against a protected group was a significant factor. The plaintiff, Harry Rosen House, purchased a rooming and carriage house, to provide a residence for individuals in recovery from substance abuse. Between 1998 and 2007, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings took place at the carriage house. In 2007, a fire destroyed the carriage house. Harry Rosen House applied for a building permit. A municipal zoning enforcement officer allegedly informed the building department that the carriage house could only be approved for storage. The municipality issued a certificate of occupancy that stated, "For Storage Use Only, Not Approved For Meetings." The board of zoning appeals ruled that meetings could be held at the carriage house, provided that only the number of people in residence at Harry Rosen House could attend, and the meetings had to take place prior to 9 p.m. Harry Rosen House sued the municipality, alleging disparate treatment, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The ADA provides, "[N]o qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." Municipal zoning qualifies as a public service or program. An inference existed that the ZEO restricted the carriage house's capacity as a place to hold meetings as a result of discriminatory animus against Alcoholics Anonymous. An inference also existed that the ZEO influenced the ZBA. The plaintiff established a prima facie case of disparate treatment. The municipality offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory rationale, that meetings were incompatible with the neighborhood's residential use. The plaintiff produced evidence that the municipality's rationale constituted a pretext for discrimination. There also was a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether the municipality failed to make a reasonable accommodation, to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability. The court denied the municipality's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's ADA disparate treatment and reasonable accommodation claims.