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STIRGUS v. BENOIT

September 18, 1989

DOROTHY STIRGUS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN BENOIT, JOHN WAITMAN, WILLIAM ENGLISH, and PATRICK DOYLE, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUA

 NICHOLAS J. BUA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 This lawsuit stems from the firebombing of plaintiff's house. Plaintiff asserts several federal and state law claims for violations of her civil rights. Defendant John Benoit has moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant Patrick Doyle has similarly moved to dismiss Counts I through IV of the complaint. For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motions are denied with respect to all counts.

 I. FACTS

 Plaintiff Dorothy Stirgus is a black woman who purchased a new home in a predominantly white neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. The defendants, John Benoit, Patrick Doyle, William English, and John Waitman, are white residents of Chicago, Illinois. Stirgus alleges that on the night of February 17, 1987, ten days after she moved into her house, the defendants propelled incendiary devices (commonly known as "Molotov cocktails") through her kitchen window. A fire started immediately. Although the blaze caused substantial damage to her house, Stirgus was able to escape the burning building safely. Subsequently, defendants were arrested and charged with aggravated arson for the firebombing of Stirgus' house.

 Stirgus claims that the incident was racially motivated, and that defendants agreed to firebomb her house to prevent her from living in that neighborhood. Her six-count complaint asserts violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982 (1982), *fn1" the Ku Klux Klan Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (1982), the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604, 3617 (1982), *fn2" and the Illinois Ethnic Intimidation Act, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, para. 12-7.1 (1987). Plaintiff also brings a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Section 1982

 Stirgus alleges that the firebombing of her home deprived her of the right to enjoy and hold her property on an equal basis with white citizens. Defendants argue that her claim must be dismissed because she did not allege state action and because the firebombing is not the type of activity that is prohibited by section 1982. *fn3"

 Contrary to defendants' position, state action need not be alleged to seek redress under section 1982. The Supreme Court has firmly established that the statute directly applies to private parties. City of Memphis v. Greene, 451 U.S. 100, 120, 67 L. Ed. 2d 769, 101 S. Ct. 1584 (1981) (citing Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1189, 88 S. Ct. 2186 (1968)).

 Despite the fact that a private party may assert a section 1982 claim, defendants contend that Stirgus' claim does not fall within the scope of section 1982. This court disagrees. Section 1982 protects "the right of black persons to hold and acquire property on an equal basis with white persons and the right of blacks not to have property interests impaired because of their race." Id. at 122. Although section 1982 "is not a comprehensive open housing law," Jones, 392 U.S. at 413, the Supreme Court has broadly interpreted and applied the statutory language in order to give full effect to its remedial measures. City of Memphis, 451 U.S. at 120; See, e.g., Tillman v. Wheaton-Haven Recreation Ass'n, 410 U.S. 431, 35 L. Ed. 2d 403, 93 S. Ct. 1090 (1973). "A narrow construction of the language of § 1982 would be quite inconsistent with the broad and sweeping nature of the protection meant to be afforded by § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27, from which § 1982 was derived." Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc., 396 U.S. 229, 237, 24 L. Ed. 2d 386, 90 S. Ct. 400 (1969).

 Indeed, the firebombing of Stirgus' house is precisely the type of discriminatory conduct that section 1982 is designed to remedy. When a racially-motivated firebombing destroys a person's home, that person does not truly enjoy the same freedom to acquire and "hold" property as a similarly situated white citizen. See Waheed v. Kalafut, No. 86 C 6674 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 1988) (1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 964) (firebombing of black family's house sufficient to support a section 1982 claim); Pina v. Abington, Eq.Opp.Hous. Rep. (P-H) para. 15,257 (E.D. Pa. May 22, 1978) (black family did not "hold" their property on an equal basis with white residents because of the city's failure to provide them with the same police protection that white residents received). Defendants' argument that section 1982 prohibits racial discrimination in the sale or lease of property, but not acts of discrimination which essentially prevent the victim from living on that property once it is acquired is untenable and contrary to the plain meaning of the statute.

 Since the mid-1950s, the approach taken by the High Court has been to accord Reconstruction civil rights statutes "a sweep as broad as [their] language." Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 97, 29 L. Ed. 2d 338, 91 S. Ct. 1790 (1971) (quoting United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 787, 801, 16 L. Ed. 2d 267, 86 S. Ct. 1152 (1966)). This court should do no less. Stirgus' claim that the defendants firebombed her home ...


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