Judge dismisses would-be landlord's claims in Warren methadone case

By Juliette Laaka | Feb 25, 2013
Photo by: Bane Okholm Robert Emery.

Portland — A United States District Court judge threw out two federal claims and one state claim of a would-be landlord who alleged he was protected under a federal act and was discriminated against by the town of Warren.

On Feb. 19, Justice D. Brock Hornby ruled Robert Emery and Vixen Land Holdings LLC — intervenor plaintiffs in CRC Health Group Inc.'s suit against Warren —  failed to prove sufficient relationships with disabled individuals to establish associational discrimination.

In the fall of 2010, Emery — through his company Vixen Land Holdings — had a purchase and sale agreement to buy the brick school at 44 School St. from the town and planned to serve as landlord to CRC there. In May 2011, the town told Emery the contract was null and void due to breach of contract. The town said Emery failed to secure a written commitment from a lender for the project, as stipulated in the sale agreement.

Emery's complaint had three counts. The two federal counts — which were both nixed last week — sought a declaratory judgment that the moratorium and the ordinance created by the town violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and that Emery was denied reasonable accommodation. The second count sought the same relief but added a request for compensatory damages.

A breach of contract claim for the town's refusal to sell property to Emery was also dismissed, but without prejudice — meaning it can be litigated again. It could now be pursued in state court.

Hornby granted the town's motion to dismiss the claims for "lack of standing under the ADA", according to the decision.

The suit by Emery asserts protection under Title II of the ADA. Under this title, the interpretation states discrimination is based upon a relationship or association with persons who have disabilities.

Title II is the public services provision, and unlike Titles I and III, does not have an explicit provision allowing lawsuits for discrimination because of an association with the disabled.

Hornby said Vixen and Emery alleged facts to prove their relationship and association with the clinic, but not with disabled individuals and that the statement does not fit Emery's relationship to the clinic.

CRC's federal lawsuit against the town over the blocking of the methadone clinic remains active. The town had previously agreed to settle the case with CRC for $320,000, but the point of contention was a memorandum of understanding signed at the time stating that the town would grant the company the needed permits.

A federal court trial is expected to begin July 1.

Emery could not be reached for comment.

Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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