Aspen service-dog suit settles
November 16, 2016
An Aspen woman's discrimination lawsuit against a condominium association and a property-management firm over her use of a service dog is on the verge of being settled.
Court papers introduced earlier this month indicate plaintiff Natasha MacArthur has reached an agreement with defendants Aspen View Condominium Association, two of its board members and First Choice Properties & Management.
Attorneys for both sides would not comment about the settlement, which is pending court approval, on Tuesday.
"I can't shed any insight," said Lakewood attorney Debra Oppenheimer, who represents the defendants.
"All I can really say is what's a matter of the public record: that the parties have resolved the suit," said Matthew Cron, MacArthur's Denver attorney who filed the complaint in Denver federal court in July 2015.
The plaintiff and defendant filed a joint notice of settlement Nov. 3, saying they have resolved all claims in the suit. The agreement is poised to be finalized within 30 days of the notice, according to court documents.
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MacArthur's suit accused the plaintiffs of employing delay tactics and launching a campaign of harassment against her in 2013 and 2014 because she had a service dog and was subleasing a unit at Aspen View Condominiums. The complex does not allow dogs, but MacArthur's complaint said that under the Fair Housing Act, both therapy and service animals are allowed to live on properties that ban pets so long as the owners provide documentation about their disability and their medical need for an assistance animal.
MacArthur has a history of seizures dating back to 2000, resulting in blackouts, memory loss, disorientation and hospitalization, her suit said. Her service dog, a golden retriever named Stevie Nicks, could not prevent her epileptic seizures, but it could detect them in advance, her suit said.
MacArthur, who moved to Aspen from Florida, accused the condo association of asking her invasive questions about her medical condition and demanding private information she could not provide. They also accused her of trying to scam the system by having a dog she didn't need, the suit said.
Even so, she moved into the unit in November 2013, prompting the homeowners association to fine MacArthur's landlord $50 a day starting in February 2014, the suit said. MacArthur, who twice provided a physician's note to the defendants describing her condition, moved out on April 1, 2014, after repeated threats from the HOA to remove her dog, the suit said.
The defendants, however, said MacArthur initially refused to provide them information about her condition, as allowed under the Fair Housing Act, and later provided them limited details justifying her use of a service dog.
And in a motion for summary judgment filed in July, the plaintiffs contended MacArthur "had no apparent disability" and was able to regularly snowboard and work two jobs.
They also contended that she took a one-month vacation without her dog after she moved out of the complex, leaving it with friends to watch.
"In fact, Stevie Nicks died November 26, 2014, and plaintiff has been without another dog since that time," the defendants alleged in a motion.
In the meantime, another suit is pending against the same defendants.
Alvaro Arnal, who leased his unit to MacArthur, is suing the condo association and property-management firm for discrimination, retaliation and interference with contract in the U.S. District Court of Denver.