JAMES RIXNER and the SIOUX CITY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF SIOUX CITY, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
JAMES W. BOYD REVOCABLE TRUST and JENNIFER BOYLE and JAMES W. BOYD, Individually, Defendants-Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Jeffrey L.
appellants appeal the dismissal of their petition alleging
discrimination in the rental of housing. REVERSED AND
E. Anstey, Assistant City Attorney, for appellants.
Patrick T. Parry of Mayne, Hindman, Daane, & Parry, Sioux
City, for appellees.
by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and Greer, JJ.
Rixner and the Sioux City Human Rights Commission
(Commission) appeal the dismissal of their petition
against the James W. Boyd Revocable Trust (Trust), Jennifer
Boyle, and James W. Boyd. The plaintiffs allege the defendants
discriminated in the rental of housing in violation of state
and municipal law, and they requested damages and an
injunction. They argue the district court abused its
discretion in striking a paragraph of the petition and erred
in finding the plaintiffs are not aggrieved parties. The
defendants argue the petition is time barred, the plaintiffs
have failed to argue they are the real party in interest, and
the plaintiffs do not have standing to pursue this action. We
decline to address the statute of limitations and motion to
strike issues and conclude that the plaintiffs have
established they are aggrieved parties under the statute and
have standing to pursue their claims. We reverse and remand
to the district court for further proceedings.
Background Facts and Proceedings
March 16, 2017, the Commission filed its first petition,
which it later amended. According to the amended petition,
the defendants owned or were otherwise responsible for
conducting business at residential rental properties in Sioux
City. On or about April 23, 2014, a third-party tester
working on behalf of the Commission contacted Boyle about
renting housing. The tester asked about keeping a companion
animal due to a disability. Boyle said no animals, including
assistive animals, were allowed in the property. The
Commission deemed this behavior discriminatory and issued a
formal probable cause finding on May 7, 2015. A similar
interaction was alleged to be part of a continuing violation
related to a subsequent complaint occurring on or about
August 10, 2016. The
claims the defendants violated the law by denying reasonable
accommodation of a disability, steering, and restricting
rental choices. Due to the allegations, the petition
requested an injunction to prevent further discrimination,
civil penalties, punitive damages, costs, and attorney fees.
defendants filed a motion to strike the reference to the
subsequent complaint, claiming the Commission already found
it lacked probable cause to pursue the complaint. After an
unreported hearing, the court granted the motion to strike on
September 14, 2017, finding "no argument or evidence
[the] complaint that was dismissed for lack of probable cause
involved a companion dog or a refusal to allow a companion
dog in the housing." On November 13, the Commission
filed an amended petition. Among the changes, the amended
petition deleted the struck paragraph, but included a new
paragraph about the subsequent complaint detailing more
information related to the alleged continuing behavior.
Another request to strike the new paragraph was made, but the
district court never ruled on the request.
with that second motion to strike, the defendants also
included a motion to dismiss. On March 7, 2018, the district
court granted the motion, finding the Commission is not an
"aggrieved person" eligible to file a petition
under Iowa Code section 216.16A(2)(a) (2017). The Commission
filed a motion to reconsider followed by a second amended
petition that added Rixner-chair of the Commission-as a
plaintiff. On April 19, the court denied the motion to
reconsider and dismissed the second amended petition, finding
"Rixner is no more of an aggrieved party than the
Commission itself" and that a tester hired by the
Commission could not be an actual "person" or
"party" in interest who had been aggrieved. The
Standard of Review
review a motion to strike portions of the petition for abuse
of discretion. See Theis v. James, 184 N.W.2d 708,
710 (Iowa 1971). We review a motion to dismiss for correction
of errors at law. Rees v. City of Shenandoah, 682
N.W.2d 77, 79 (Iowa 2004). "A motion to dismiss is
properly granted only if a plaintiff's petition 'on
its face shows no right of recovery under any state of
facts.'" Id. (quoting Trobaugh v.
Sondag, 668 N.W.2d 577, 580 (Iowa 2003)). "A motion
to dismiss is properly granted 'only when there exists no
conceivable set ...