Aspen service-dog lawsuit headed toward settlement | AspenTimes.com

Aspen service-dog lawsuit headed toward settlement

A legal dispute over an Aspen condominium association's handling of a tenant with a service dog is heading toward a settlement, based on a filing in Denver federal court.

A joint notice of settlement — filed by plaintiff Alvaro Arnal and defendants Aspen View Condominium Association, two of its board members and First Choice Properties & Management Inc. — says they have struck an agreement "for the purpose of resolving all pending claims."

The settlement will not be made official until Feb. 13 at the latest, the deadline Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel has given the parties to issue their settlement document with the court.

In the same minute order issued by Daniel on Nov. 14, the judge also vacated a jury trial that had been scheduled to begin Feb. 12.

"We executed an agreement that prohibits the parties or their attorneys from disclosing the settlement sum paid to Mr. Arnal," Denver attorney Phyllis Roestenberg, one of three lawyers who worked on Arnal's complaint, wrote in an email.

The settlement, if formalized, will come nearly three years in the making. Arnal, a condo owner at the Aspen View complex, which is located at 326 Midland Ave., sued in May 2015, alleging the condo association violated the Fair Housing Amendments Acts of 1988 by discriminating and retaliating against a seizure-prone tenant with a service dog.

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The tenant, Natasha MacArthur, sublet the condo unit from Arnal in November 2013. The 18-unit complex banned pets. The Fair Housing Act, however, makes it legal for both service and therapy animals to live in properties that ban pets so long as their owners show documentation about their disability and need for an assistance animal.

Before Arnal and MacArthur agreed to the lease, Arnal said the condo association and the property management firm wrongfully demanded extensive documentation about her ailment and the dog, according to his lawsuit. After MacArthur moved in, Arnal's suit claims the association fined him $50 a day starting Jan. 31, 2014, for allowing her to have a service dog in the unit.

The board also fined Arnal $1,450 and issued him a $4,234 bill, on June 5, 2014, for its attorneys' fees that accumulated during the dog dispute. And a month later, the board placed a $5,684 lien on Arnal's unit, the suit says.

MacArthur, who also sued the Aspen View Condominium Association and First Choice Properties & Management in Denver federal court in July 2015, left the unit in March 2014. Her suit settled Nov. 25 on confidential terms with prejudice, meaning the case cannot be litigated again. The dog, named Stevie Nicks, is no longer alive.

In both suits, the defendants maintained they operated in a fair manner, the plaintiffs were uncooperative and MacArthur "had no apparent disability" and was able to regularly snowboard and hold down two jobs.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com