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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT


EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
SOUTHERN DIVISION
PHILIP CUSUMANO,
Case No. 14-13149
Plaintiff,
v.

Hon. Matthew F. Lietman

HARTLAND MEADOWS, L.L.C.,


a Michigan limited liability company,

Magistrate-Judge David R. Grand

Defendant.
___________________________________/
Steve Tomkowiak (P-40042)
LAW OFFICE OF STEVE TOMKOWIAK
Counsel for Plaintiff
30300 Northwestern Highway, Suite 160
Farmington Hills, MI 48334
(248) 543-1600
Fax: (248) 543-1800
Email: SteveTomkowiak@gmail.com
___________________________________/
AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE, DECLARATORY AND OTHER RELIEF
Plaintiff Philip Cusumano, by his attorney, Steve Tomkowiak, and for his Amended
Complaint against Defendant Hartland Meadows, L.L.C., states as follows:
General Allegations
The Parties
1.

Plaintiff Philip Cusumano (Plaintiff) is a natural person, and resident of the

Township of Hartland, County of Livingston, and State of Michigan.


2.

Defendant Hartland Meadows, L.L.C., on information and belief, is a

Michigan limited liability corporation, with Jerome A. Ruggirello serving as its resident

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agent and with its principal place of business or registered office located at 39500 High Point
Boulevard, Suite 130, in the City of Novi, County of Oakland, and State of Michigan.
3.

On information and belief, Jerome A. Ruggirello serves as a member of

Defendant Hartland Meadows, L.L.C.


4.

On information and belief, Jerome A. Ruggirello signed Defendant Hartland

Meadows, L.L.C.s 2014 Annual Report.


5.

At all relevant times, Defendant Hartland Meadows, L.L.C., on information

and belief, has owned, operated and/or managed the real estate project know as Hartland
Meadows, located at 13634 West Highland Road, Hartland, MI 48353.
6.

Defendant operates from the same office as AJR Development Inc. at 39500

High Point Boulevard, Suite 130, Novi, Michigan 48375.


7.

According to the 2014 Annual Report of AJR Development Inc., the resident

manager of AJR Development Inc. is Jerome A. Ruggirello, who serves as resident manager
for Defendant.
8.

The 2014 Annual Report of AJR Development Inc. lists Jerome A. Ruggirello

as its president and Antonio J. Ruggirello as its secretary and treasurer.


9.

The Hartland Meadows project, on information and belief, may also use the

street address of 13598 Highland Road.


10.

The Hartland Meadows project, on information and belief, includes Parcel

Identification Nos. 4708-25-100-012, 4708-25-200-002 and 4708-25-200-025.

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As noted on the attached site map, the Hartland Meadows project or

community can hold well over 600 manufactured homes and trailers. Hartland Meadows
Site Map (Exhibit A).
12.

On information and belief, Defendant owns, operates and/or manages six

manufactured homes and trailer parks including Hartland Meadows.


Jurisdiction and Venue
13.

This case involves handicap discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing

Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. 3604 (FHAA).


14.

The FHAA makes it unlawful to discriminate against any person in the terms,

conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or


facilities in connection with a dwelling on the basis of that persons handicap. 42 U.S.C.
3604(f).
15.

A handicapped person is defined broadly in the FHAA as one who has a

physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits such persons major life activities,
has a record of having such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. 42
U.S.C. 3602(h).
16.

Discrimination is defined in the FHAA to include refusing to make

reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when necessary to


afford such person with a handicap an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. 42
U.S.C. 3604(f)(3).

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The Court has jurisdiction of this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 3613, and as

a federal question arising under the laws of the United States, as well as pursuant to 28
U.S.C. 1331, 1337 & 1343.
18.

This Complaint also arises under the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil

Rights Act, M.C.L. 37.1501-37.1507 (PWDCRA).


19.

The PWDCRA, like the FHAA, prohibits discrimination in the refusal to make

reasonable accommodations for handicapped residents in need of such accommodations.


20.

The Court has pendent jurisdiction of Plaintiffs PWDCRA claim.

21.

There are no administrative prerequisites under the FHAA and the PWDCRA

to the filing of this action by Plaintiff.


22.

Additionally, Plaintiffs complaint is timely, as filed within the applicable two-

and three-year statutes of limitations periods applicable to claims under the FHAA and the
PWDCRA, respectively, following Defendants most recent violations or continued
violations of the FHAA and the PWDCRA.
23.

Venue is appropriate, under 28 U.S.C. 1391, since the substantial part of the

events giving rise to this action occurred in this District, Defendant and Plaintiff reside in this
District, Defendant conducts business in this District, and the residential rental property that
is the subject of this action is located in this District.
Plaintiffs Manufactured Home
24.

From November 2011 to the current date, Plaintiff and his wife have owned

and resided a manufactured home located at 1940 Charlestan Circle, Hartland, MI 48353.
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Plaintiff and his wife pay Defendant lot rent of $390.00 and otherwise satisfy

the terms and conditions for ownership and residency at Hartland Meadows.
Plaintiffs Disabilities
26.

Plaintiff is 64 years of age.

27.

Plaintiff has been on SSDI since October 1, 1986, due to a lung condition.

28.

In 2002, Plaintiff received a lung transplant.

29.

After receiving the lung transplant, Plaintiff, in 2003, became legally blind.

30.

Plaintiff suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD) and

uses an oxygen concentrator.


31.

In recent years, Plaintiffs kidneys have failed.

32.

Plaintiff began using a wheelchair in July 2012, when he became unable to use

a walker to walk down steps after receiving dialysis treatment.


33.

In short, Plaintiff is legally blind and must use a wheelchair on sidewalks to

move to and from his residence to reach his mailbox and other common areas at Hartland
Meadows.
Defendants Community Covenants and Addenda
34.

Real estate listings for Hartland Meadows home sites state that each site has

[a] concrete driveway with room for three vehicles. MH Village, Hartland Meadows
Community Description (Exhibit B).

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Defendant provided Plaintiff and, on information and belief, other owners and

tenants with a copy of the Hartland Meadows Community Covenants and Addenda.
Hartland Meadows Community Covenants and Addenda (Exhibit C).
36.

The streets at Hartland Meadows are narrow. As a result, the Community

Covenants and Addenda necessarily permit only off-street parking (i.e., parking on each
home sites concrete driveway with room for three vehicles):
X.

VEHICLES: For the safety of all Community Residents and their


property, all vehicle regulations must be strictly complied with and are
specifically as follows. . . .
1.

Parking: Motor vehicles must be parked on off-street spaces


provided on Resident's own home site. Parking is provided only
for passenger vehicles in good operating condition currently
licensed with no more than two axles. No vehicles with a load
capacity in excess of one ton shall be kept stored or parked
within the Community, except for making normal deliveries.
Commercial vehicles are not permitted to remain in the
Community without receiving Management's prior WRITTEN
approval.
It shall be the responsibility of the Resident to keep streets clear
of unauthorized vehicles at all times. Parking is prohibited
within 10 feet of any fire hydrant. Parking on any unpaved area
is strictly prohibited with the exception of Landlord-approved
parking areas. ABSOLUTELY NO PARKING ON THE
LAWNS AT ANY TIME.

2.

Parking Spaces: On-site parking is provided for three vehicles


per home site. Any Resident or household with more than three
vehicles will have to store them outside of the Community.
Parking spaces are to be used for transportation motor vehicles
only. Recreational vehicles, trailers or other items may not be
parked in parking spaces.

Hartland Meadows Community Covenants and Addenda, at 16-17 (emphasis added).

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In newsletters, Defendant reminds residents that automobiles are not to be

parked on sidewalks and that each home site has room for three vehicles:

Please do not park on the sidewalks...


For the safety of all
Community Residents please
do not park on the sidewalks...

added extra parking on your


site. Parking spaces are to be
used for transportation motor
vehicles only. Recreational
vehicles, trailers or other items
may not be parked in parking
spaces. It is the responsibility
of the Resident to keep streets
and sidewalks clear.

Motor vehicles should be


parked on off-street spaces
provided on Resident's own
home site. Parking is provided
for three vehicles per home
site.
Any
Resident
or
household with more than
three vehicles will have to
store them outside of the
Community unless you have

...

June 2012 Newsletter (Exhibit D).


Defendants Denial of a Handicap Parking Accommodation
38.

In 2013, Plaintiffs wife contacted Ms. Joy Gibbs, Manager for Defendant, on

more than one occasion to request that Defendant enforce the Community Covenants and
Addenda and prohibits residents from parking on sidewalks.
39.

These requests were ignored.

40.

In April 2014, Plaintiff was forced to drive his wheelchair onto the street

because of automobiles that were parked on-street and, due to the narrow width of the streets,
blocking the sidewalk precluding Plaintiffs wheelchair access.

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As Plaintiff drove his wheelchair onto the street to travel around the parked

automobile blocking the sidewalk, Plaintiff was almost struck by an oncoming automobile on
the narrow street.
42.

For the last year, Plaintiff, unlike non-disabled residents, has been unable to

access his mailbox and other common areas at Hartland Meadows.


43.

Additionally, one of Plaintiffs most satisfying experiences is going to and

from the playground with his two young grandchildren. Because of his inability to use his
wheelchair on sidewalks, Plaintiff for over a year has been denied the enjoyment of taking
his two young grandchildren to the playground area at Hartland Meadows.
44.

Realizing that he could not risk injury again by driving around automobiles

parked on the sidewalks, Plaintiff placed a telephone call to Ms. Gibbs ((248) 889-5181), to
request, as did his wife has done in 2013, that Defendants enforce the Community Covenants
and Addenda and prohibits residents from parking on sidewalks.
45.

Ms. Gibbs did not grant Plaintiffs accommodation request. To the contrary,

Ms. Gibbs falsely argued that Plaintiff was harassing her, apparently because Ms. Gibbs
remembered calls that had been made to her by Plaintiffs wife.
46.

After being rejected by Ms. Gibbs, Plaintiff then made numerous telephone

calls in an effort to be able to drive his wheelchair on the sidewalks at Hartland Meadows.
47.

Plaintiff, among other things, called the Hartland Senior Center ((810 626-

2139); Jerry (i.e., Jerome A. Ruggirello) and Tony Ruggirello from Defendant Hartland
Meadows, L.L.C. and Defendants affiliate company, AJR Development, Inc. ((248) 3802

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6150 and fax no. (248) 380-6153)); Tony Savoni, Hartland Township Code Enforcement
((810) 632-1065 x200); Sheriff Wilson, Clare County Sherriffs Department ((989) 5397166); and the Livingston County Sheriffs Department ((517) 546-9111).
48.

Plaintiff also called the Washtenaw Association for Community Advocacy

(ARC), which, in turn, directed Plaintiff to the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern
Michigan (FHC).
49.

Plaintiff then spoke to Jessica Ortiz, the FHCs Coordinator of Investigations

((734) 994-3426).
50.

Pamela A. Kisch, the FHCs Executive Director, and Kristen J. Cuhran, the

FHCs Associate Director, then made a site visit to Plaintiffs residence. Ms. Kisch and Ms.
Curhan observed and took photograms of automobiles blocking the sidewalk at Hartland
Meadows.
51.

On April 30, 2014, the FHC, on Plaintiffs behalf, sent a written request for a

reasonable accommodation:
Joy Gibbs
Hartland Meadows
13634 Highland Rd.
Hartland, MI 48353
Fax: 248-889-5189
Dear Ms. Gibbs:
Philip Cusumano, who resides at 1940 Charleston Circle, has contacted the
Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan for assistance.
As you know, Mr. Cusumano is legally blind and uses a wheelchair. Because
of his disabilities, he relies on clear sidewalk paths to traverse from his home
to his mailbox, and throughout Hartland Meadows.

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We are aware that Hartland Meadows asks its residents to not park on the
sidewalks, and that tenants are informed of this policy via the community's
newsletter. However, Mr. Cusumano says this policy is not enforced. He and
his wife have photographic documentation of several instances, usually in the
evenings and on the weekends, when cars are parked on the sidewalk. These
vehicles prohibit Mr. Cusumano from safely traveling from around the
community.
Mr. Cusumano moved to Hartland Meadows under the assumption that he
would have equal use of the property. While individuals who do not use
wheelchairs may be able to circumvent the parked cars without much problem,
Mr. Cusumano and others who use wheelchairs rely on clear paths to be
available to them at all times. "Difference in use of property" based on
disability is considered a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Center asks that Hartland Meadows enforce its "no parking
on sidewalks" rule. Please inform us of your enforcement plan, in writing, no
later than Friday, May 9, 2014. We are hopeful this matter can be resolved
quickly and without the need for further action.
FHC Letter of April 30, 2014 (Exhibit E).
52.

Defendant did not respond to the FHCs reasonable accommodation request.

53.

On May 15, 2014, the FHC sent another written request for a reasonable

accommodation:
Tony Riggirello, Owner
AJR Development Inc.
39500 High Pointe Blvd
Novi, Michigan 48375
Fax: 248-380-6153
Dear Mr. Riggirello,
On April 30, 2015, our staff faxed and mailed a letter to Manager Joy Gibbs at
Hartland Meadows asking for a reply by May 9, 2014 regarding Mr. Philip
Cusumano who lives at 1940 Charleston Circle. Mr. Cusumano also faxed the
letter to you at 248-380-6153 on May 6, 2014, and followed up with a phone
call. I am including a copy of the original letter.
As you know, Mr. Cusumano is legally blind and uses a wheelchair. Because
of his disabilities, he relies on clear sidewalk paths to get from his home to his
mailbox, and through the common areas of the Hartland Meadows property.
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Mr. Cusumano contacted our office because Hartland Meadow's policy of "no
parking on the sidewalk" is not being enforced. On Saturday May 10, 2014,
the sidewalks were blocked by cars and Mr. Cusumano was forced to travel in
the road where he was nearly hit by a car.
It is the opinion of the Fair Housing Center that restricting Mr. Cusumano's
ability to safely traverse the grounds where he lives is a violation of the
Federal Fair Housing Act. We are again asking that you enforce your rule
prohibiting parking on sidewalks at Hartland Meadows.
If this rule is no longer in place, then the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern
Michigan requests, as a reasonable accommodation of Mr. Cusumano's
disability, that safe clear access to all sidewalks in the park are maintained 24
hours a day.
FHC Letter of May 15, 2014 (Exhibit F).
54.

On May 19, 2014, Defendant Hartland Meadows, L.L.C. responded by

acknowledging Hartland Meadows no parking on the sidewalk policy and claiming that its
management team supposedly patrols the community daily to enforce this policy and other
community rules and covenants:
I am in receipt of your letter dated May 15, 2014. While I do not have specific
knowledge as to the health issues of Mr. Cusumano, I am writing to ensure
you that we do have a policy of no parking on the sidewalks within our
community. Our management team continually patrols the community on a
daily basis to enforce not only parking, but other aspects of the community
covenants. We pride ourselves at Hartland Meadows on operating a wellmanaged property. Of course as you know, as with any setting in society, there
will be those from time to time who do not fully comply. I have alerted my
management team to pay extra close attention to the issue raised by Mr.
Cusumano and we intend to enforce our rules to the fullest extent permitted
under the landlord tenant laws which govern us.
Sincerely,
Jerome A. Ruggirello
Managing Member
In House Counsel
Hartland Meadows, LLC
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Hartland Meadows Letter of May 19, 2014 (Exhibit G).


55.

Notwithstanding the contacts by Plaintiff and his wife, and the FHCs letters

of April 30, 2014 (Exhibit E) and May 15, 2014 (Exhibit F), Defendant has not enforced the
Hartland Meadows no parking on the sidewalk policy.
56.

Residents at Hartland Meadows continue to park on sidewalks, denying

Plaintiff an accessible wheelchair route to and from his residence to his mailbox, common
areas and the playground.
57.

This is shown in numerous photographs taken after May 19, 2014. Hartland

Meadows Photographs (July 29, 2014 to August 11, 2014) (Exhibit H).
58.

Plaintiff is entitled to a reasonable accommodation, precluding other residents

from parking on sidewalks, so that Plaintiff, like non-mobility impaired residents, can use the
sidewalks to reach his mailbox, common areas, and to enjoy taking his two young
grandchildren to and from playground areas:
The country club-style clubhouse is the main feature at the center of the
community providing residents with kitchen facilities and fireside great room,
perfect for community activities. A children's play area and large, open lawn
surround the clubhouse making it a great place for recreation.
All of these features combined with professional, on-site management make
Hartland Meadows a great place to call home!
Country club style clubhouse with fireside great room and kitchen
facilities for entertaining
Elegant entrance with lavish landscaping to welcome you and your
guests
Children's play area
Large, sodded home sites
Rubbish removal
Locking mailboxes
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MH Village, Hartland Meadows Community Description (Exhibit B).


59.

Plaintiffs accommodation request is reasonable, and will not result any undue

burden or expense to Defendant. Defendant, without burden or expense, could readily


enforce its Community Covenants and Addenda (Exhibit C) at Hartland Meadows, which
expressly prohibit on street parking and parking on sidewalks.

Indeed, Defendant has

acknowledged in its newsletter that residents have three parking spaces on their own
driveways and are not to park automobiles sidewalks (Exhibit D).
Injuries and Damages
60.

Because of Defendants failures and refusals to grant her request for a

reasonable accommodation in terms of parking, Plaintiff has suffered emotional distress,


such as, embarrassment; humiliation; anxiety; loss of personhood and civil rights; and pain
and suffering. These emotional distress injuries and damages include, but are not limited to,
the loss of the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of his home and the denial of the privileges and
opportunities to the use and enjoyment of common areas, such as retrieving mail, using
common areas, and talking his two young grandchildren to the playground.
61.

Moreover, the acts, conduct and/or omissions of Defendants were and continue

to be intentional, malicious, and in wanton or reckless disregard of the rights and feelings of
Plaintiff, entitling Plaintiff to additional awards of punitive and/or exemplary damages.

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COUNT I
VIOLATION OF THE FHAA
62.

Paragraphs 1 through 61 of the Amended Complaint are incorporated and

restated as if set forth fully herein.


63.

Plaintiff at all relevant times was handicapped under the terms of the FHAA.

64.

Defendant violated, and is continuing to violate, the FHAA, by refusing and

continuing to refuse, upon repeated requests, to make reasonable accommodations for


Plaintiff in the rules, policies, practices or services concerning parking at Hartland Meadows.
65.

Similarly Defendant has violated, and are continuing to violate the FHAA by

refusing and continuing to refuse, upon repeated requests, to make reasonable


accommodations for Plaintiff in the rules, policies, practices or services concerning parking
at Hartland Meadows.
66.

Such an accommodation is necessary to afford Plaintiff an equal opportunity

to use and enjoy his unit as non-handicapped occupants at Hartland Meadows.


67.

The requested accommodation will not in any way cause an undue

administrative burden or expense to Defendant.


68.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants actions and practices in

violation of the FHAA, Plaintiff has incurred compensable economic and emotional distress
damages, and personal injuries and damages, including, but not limited to, pain and
suffering. Plaintiff is also entitled to an award of punitive and/or exemplary damages.

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COUNT II
VIOLATION OF THE PWDCRA
69.

Paragraphs 1 through 68 of the Amended Complaint are incorporated and

restated as if set forth fully herein.


70.

Plaintiff at all relevant times was handicapped under the terms of the

PWDCRA.
71.

Defendant violated, and is continuing to violate, the PWDCRA, by refusing

and continuing to refuse, upon repeated requests, to make reasonable accommodations for
Plaintiff in the rules, policies, practices or services concerning parking at Hartland Meadows.
72.

Similarly Defendant has violated, and is continuing to violate the PWDCRA

by refusing and continuing to refuse, upon repeated requests, to make reasonable


accommodations for Plaintiff in the rules, policies, practices or services concerning parking
at Hartland Meadows.
73.

Such an accommodation is necessary to afford Plaintiff an equal opportunity

to use and enjoy his unit as non-handicapped occupants at Hartland Meadows.


74.

The requested accommodation will not in any way cause an undue

administrative burden or expense to Defendant.


75.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants actions and practices in

violation of the PWDCRA, Plaintiff has incurred compensable economic and emotional
distress damages, and personal injuries and damages, including, but not limited to, pain and
suffering. Plaintiff is also entitled to an award of punitive and/or exemplary damages.

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WHEREFORE, for all of the above reasons, Plaintiff respectfully requests that the
Court grant the following relief against Defendants:
(A)

Order Defendant to temporarily, preliminarily and permanently enforce its


rules, policies, practices or services prohibiting parking on sidewalks and
requiring residents and guests to park no more than three vehicles on
driveways;

(B)

Temporarily, preliminarily and permanently enjoin Defendant, and all officers,


directors, employees, attorneys, agents, and assigns of Defendant, including,
but not limited to, officers, directors, employees, attorneys, agents, and assigns
of AJR Development Inc., from any other acts or practices of handicap
discrimination against other occupants or guests in the ownership, operation
and management of Hartland Meadows;

(C)

Award actual and compensatory damages to compensate Plaintiff for his


economic losses and damages, personal injuries, pain and suffering, and
noneconomic injuries, such as emotional distress, loss of civil rights, and
humiliation and embarrassment caused by the handicap discrimination of
Defendant, in an amount to be proven at trial;

(D)

Grant Plaintiff an award of punitive and/or exemplary damages as a result of


Defendants deliberate, intentional, willful and flagrant handicap
discrimination, in an amount that reflects the dual purposes of punishment and
deterrence;

(E)

Grant Plaintiff an award of attorneys fees, costs and interest incurred in


bringing this action;

(F)

Grant Plaintiff pre-judgment and post-judgment on all awards rendered against


Defendant; and

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(G)

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Grant such other and additional relief that the Court finds just and appropriate
under the circumstances of this case.
Respectfully submitted,
LAW OFFICE OF STEVE TOMKOWIAK
Counsel for Plaintiff
By: /s/ Steve Tomkowiak (P-40042)
30300 Northwestern Highway, Suite 160
Farmington Hills, MI 48334
(248) 543-1600
Fax: (248) 543-1800
Email: SteveTomkowiak@gmail.com

Dated: August 14, 2014

JURY DEMAND
Plaintiff Philip Cusumano, by his attorney, Steve Tomkowiak, hereby demands a jury
trial as to all issues to which there exists a right to trial by jury.
Respectfully submitted,
LAW OFFICE OF STEVE TOMKOWIAK
Counsel for Plaintiff
By: /s/ Steve Tomkowiak (P-40042)
30300 Northwestern Highway, Suite 160
Farmington Hills, MI 48334
(248) 543-1600
Fax: (248) 543-1800
Email: SteveTomkowiak@gmail.com
Dated: August 14, 2014

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INDEX OF EXHIBITS
Exhibit

Description

A.

Hartland Meadows Site Map

B.

MH Village, Hartland Meadows Community Description

C.

Hartland Meadows Community Covenants and Addenda

D.

June 2012 Newsletter

E.

FHC Letter of April 30, 2014

F.

FHC Letter of May 15, 2014

G.

Hartland Meadows Letter of May 19, 2014

H.

Hartland Meadows Photographs (July 29, 2014 to August 11, 2014)

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EXHIBIT A
Hartland Meadows Site Map

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EXHIBIT B
MH Village, Hartland Meadows Community Description

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EXHIBIT C
Hartland Meadows Community Covenants and Addenda

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EXHIBIT D
June 2012 Newsletter

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EXHIBIT E
FHC Letter of April 30, 2014

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EXHIBIT F
FHC Letter of May 15, 2014

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EXHIBIT G
Hartland Meadows Letter of May 19, 2014

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EXHIBIT H
Hartland Meadows Photographs
(July 29, 2014 to August 11, 2014)

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July 29, 2014

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July 29, 2014

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July 29, 2014

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August 6, 2014

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August 8, 2014

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August 9, 2014

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August 9, 2014

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August 10, 2014

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August 11, 2014

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