The Light Before Christmas

12/03/2019 | Premises Liability

In a small suburb outside of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho there has been an ongoing legal battle between a Homeowner’s Association and a couple with an affinity for putting on an extravagant Christmas display at their home. After moving into the neighborhood in 2014, Jeremy and Kristy Morris began hosting a Christmas display that would make the Griswold family proud, complete with over 200,000 lights, dozens of carolers, and a real-life nativity scene including a live camel. The couple utilized donations from visitors to donate to children’s charities.

However, the Homeowner’s Association, after dealing with blocked roads and complaints of neighbors, considered the display a nuisance, and in violation of association rules restricting “excessive noise,” “increased traffic,” and “excessively bright lights.”

Eventually, the dispute found its way to court and in 2018 an Idaho jury found the couple had been discriminated against by the Homeowner’s Association on the basis of their religion, and awarded $75,000 in damages.

In early 2019 a Federal judge overturned the jury’s decision, and issued an injunction—preventing the couple from further hosting the yearly Christmas program. After the trial, the judge concluded that the couple had “failed to offer sufficient proof upon which a reasonable jury could conclude that the Homeowners Association had violated” the Fair Housing Act. The Couple has appealed the trial judge’s decision to the  United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.