Edward Rose & Sons (Rose) (defendant) was constructing 19 apartment buildings, all of which employed the same floor plan. The United States government (plaintiff) sued Rose for violating the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. The FHA required a building's primary entrance and public or common areas to be accessible to handicapped persons. The government alleged that Rose's floorplan failed to comply with that requirement, because each building's front door could be accessed only by descending a short handicapped-inaccessible stairway. According to the government, the front door's proximity to the parking lot made it, rather than a handicapped-accessible rear door, the door most building occupants and visitors would use, and therefore the building's primary entrance. The government also argued that, because the stairway landing was flanked by separate apartments, the stairway was a common area. The federal district court granted the government's motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the construction, and Rose appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.