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Krieman v. Crystal Lake Apartments Limited Partnership

May 31, 2006

BRIDGET KRIEMAN, ANTHONY KRIEMAN, AND DARLENE KRIEMAN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CRYSTAL LAKE APARTMENTS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, CRYSTAL LAKE INVESTMENTS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, EQUITY PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, L.L.C., AND DOTTI DANCA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Bridget Krieman ("Bridget"), Bridget's son Anthony Krieman ("Anthony"), and Bridget's mother Darlene Krieman ("Darlene") (collectively "Plaintiffs" or "Kriemans") filed suit against Crystal Lake Apartments Limited Partnership, Crystal Lake Investments Limited Partnership, Equity Property Management, LLC and Dotti Danca ("Danca")(collectively "Defendants") for violations of the Federal Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. Defendants are the owners of the apartment complex where the Krieman family lived, the managing company of the apartment complex, and the manager respectively. Plaintiffs sued Defendant Danca individually, and sued the other Defendants under a theory of vicarious liability. Plaintiffs allege that Danca discriminated against Plaintiffs on the basis of race and retaliated against them when they complained about the discrimination. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts of Plaintiffs' complaint. Because Plaintiffs cannot establish the required prima facie case under the elements of each alleged claim, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

Factual Background

For purposes of summary judgment, all disputed facts are viewed in the light most favorable to non-movant Plaintiffs and all reasonable inferences are drawn in their favor. Bennington v. Caterpillar Inc., 275 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001). Plaintiffs resided together for more than 20 years in an apartment in a complex owned by Defendants Crystal Lake Apartments Partnerships and managed by Defendant Equity Property Management ("EPM"). Def. Am. Statement of Mat. Facts at ¶¶ 1-4 (hereafter "Def. 56.1 at ___").*fn1 Plaintiff Anthony Krieman, son of Bridget Krieman, lived in the apartment from birth until the family was evicted in 2003. Id. at ¶ 1. Bridget and Darlene are Caucasian; Anthony is mixed Caucasian and African-American. Id. at ¶¶ 1-3. Darlene Krieman received a Section VIII housing subsidy from McHenry County, Illinois that paid a portion of the monthly rent for the apartment. Darlene Krieman Dep. at 18-19.

Defendant Danca served as the property manager of the complex starting in 1995, and was still the complex manager at the time of Plaintiff's eviction in 2003. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 7. In 1995 and 1996, Danca's property management office was located directly below the Krieman's apartment. Plaintiffs' L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B) Statement of Additional Facts at ¶ 6 (hereafter "Pl. 56.1 at ¶ __"). During that time, the Kriemans heard Defendant Danca make numerous derogatory comments about Anthony's race, including calling him "nigger" and "biracial boy." Darlene Krieman Dep. at 31-45; Bridget Krieman Dep. at 48-61; Anthony Krieman Dep. at 14-26. In 1996, Bridget Krieman confronted Danca about the statements, after which time Bridget heard no further comments. Bridget Krieman Dep. at 60-61, 64-65.

Also in 1996, Danca sent Darlene Krieman a letter that her lease would not be renewed for the following yearly term. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 17. Prairie State Legal Services group to advocate on Plaintiffs' behalf with respect to the non-renewal. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 27. In September 1996, Niall Byrne, an employee of EPM, sent a letter to Plaintiffs' counsel that the lease would be renewed. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 35.

In December 2000, Plaintiffs did not make a rent payment of $525.35. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 29. Danca gave Plaintiffs notice of late payment on the 5th of the month, stating that they had five days in which to pay the balance of rent due before eviction would commence. Danca Aff. at ¶ 16, Ex. 4. On December 11, the rent had not been paid, and Danca forwarded documents to legal counsel for EPM to commence an eviction action. Danca Aff. at ¶ 17. On December 13, 2000, the St. Thomas Apostle church sent two checks, each in the amount of $265, for a total of $530, to cover the delinquent rent for the Kriemans. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 34; Danca Aff. at Ex. 5. Danca accepted and deposited the checks, which did not cover the entire amount due, because late fees and eviction action costs had increased the amount owed. Danca Aff. at ¶¶ 18-20. The eviction action continued.

David Warren, a member of the St. Thomas Apostle Church, visited Danca in January 2001 to ask about the process of the eviction and whether EPM would refund the checks to the church. Warren Aff. at ¶ 4. Danca told him that it was too late, and that "[the Kriemans] don't work and she has this biracial boy running around." Warren Aff. at ¶ 4. Warren testified that Danca used the term "biracial boy" several times during the conversation. Warren Aff. at ¶ 4. In February 2001, EPM and the Kriemans settled the eviction action and the Kriemans remained in the apartment. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 42; Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 40.

In August 2001, McHenry County terminated Darlene Krieman's Section VIII housing subsidy. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 50. As a result of the termination, the Krieman's monthly rental payment increased to $975. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 50. Danca sent the Kriemans a letter indicating that because the housing assistance had terminated, the rent would increase and a credit check would be required at a cost of $30 per applicant. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 43. If the credit check were not completed, Plaintiffs would be evicted. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 43. There is no standard procedure at the Crystal Lake apartment complex for conducting credit checks on current tenants. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 44. At the time Danca sent the letter requiring the credit check, Plaintiffs had already renewed their lease for the following year. Bridget Krieman Dep. at 78-79. After another inquiry by Plaintiffs' counsel, counsel for EPM indicated that a credit check would not be required, and to disregard Danca's letter. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 46-47.

In the summer of 2002, the Kriemans had problems with the maintenance of their apartment.

During 2002, Jaime DeAlba was the maintenance person at the Crystal Lake apartment complex. DeAlba Aff. at ¶ 2. DeAlba would receive work orders from Danca, unless the request was an emergency. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 58, DeAlba Aff. at ¶ 5. DeAlba carried a pager, and would respond to requests the same day that they were forwarded to him by Danca. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 58, DeAlba Aff. at ¶ 5. DeAlba followed the same procedure with all tenants, including the Kriemans. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 59, DeAlba Aff. at ¶ 5. The Kriemans were aware of a verbal requirement that maintenance requests be put in writing. Darlene Krieman Dep. at 50; Bridget Krieman Dep. at 82-83.

The Kriemans experienced problems with a the water heater, the air conditioner, and the telephone connection. Both Bridget and Darlene Krieman communicated with Danca about the water heater. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 60. The water heater took approximately 4 days to be repaired. Darlene Krieman Dep. at 60-61. During that period, no other tenants received new water heaters. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 67. The phone line took approximately 3 weeks to be repaired; the phone stopped working on April 17, Bridget Krieman left a telephone message via cell phone with Darlene on April 22, and submitted the request in writing on April 27. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 52, 55; Danca Aff. at Ex. 6. Danca responded to Bridget's letter on May 8 with confirmation that the apartment complex would pay for the repairs, and the repairs were completed on May 9. Danca Aff. at Ex. 6-7, Def. 56.1 at ¶ 83; Bridget Aff. at 85-92. During that period, Danca's supervisor, Kevin Morse, reviewed the matter and determined that the telephone problem was the responsibility of the apartment complex and not the responsibility of the tenant. Def. 56.1 at ¶ 81, Morse Aff. at ¶ 31. The air conditioner did not work properly throughout the summer of 2002. Darlene Krieman Dep. at 67. The Kriemans did not put their concerns about the air conditioner in a written maintenance request. Id.

In March 2003, Plaintiffs did not pay the rent. Bridget Krieman Dep. at 21; Darlene Krieman Dep. at 13. In an eviction action brought by the apartment complex, Bridget and Darlene Krieman signed an agreed order in April 2003 terminating the lease and ordering judgment against Bridget and Darlene Krieman for the unpaid rent. Bridget Krieman Dep. at 26-27; Morse Aff. at Ex. 13. At least one Plaintiff does not dispute that Defendants have the legal right to offset the judgment with the security deposit. Bridget Krieman Dep. at 26-27.

In the fall of 2002, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants with the Department of Housing and Urban Development concerning discrimination in housing. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 86. Plaintiff withdrew the complaint on September 30, 2004. Pl. 56.1 at ¶ 87. Plaintiffs filed this action in January 2005.

Discussion

Legal Standard Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.(c). In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Bennington v. Caterpillar Inc., 275 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The Court, however, will "limit its analysis of the facts on summary judgment to evidence that is properly identified and supported in the parties' [Local Rule 56.1] statement." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. Of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000). Plaintiff retains the burden of producing enough evidence to support a reasonable jury verdict in her favor. East-Miller v. Lake County Highway Dept., 421 F.3d 558, 561 (7th Cir. 2005). "The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 562, quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

Where a proposed statement of fact is supported by the record and not adequately rebutted, the court will accept that statement as true for purposes of summary judgment. An adequate rebuttal requires a citation to specific support in the record, an unsubstantiated denial is not adequate. See Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 933 (7th Cir. 2001); Drake v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 134 F.3d 878, 887 (7th Cir. 1998) ("Rule 56 demands something more specific than the bald assertion of the general truth of a particular matter[;] rather it requires affidavits that cite specific concrete facts establishing the existence of the truth of the matter asserted.").

Statute of Limitations

For each of Plaintiffs' five claims of housing discrimination, Plaintiffs rely upon events that occurred between 1995 and 2003. Private actions under the FHA have a statue of limitations of 2 years. 42 U.S.C. 3613(a)(1)(A). Defendants argue that the only event that occurred within the statute of limitations, the 2003 eviction, has been admitted by Plaintiffs to be an eviction for failure to pay rent. Therefore, Defendants argue that summary judgment must be granted in their favor on all counts because the remaining events occurred outside the statute of limitations.

Plaintiffs respond in two parts to the allegation that the events of 1995-2002 are time-barred. For the acts during and after December 2000, Plaintiffs present the undisputed evidence that Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") in August 2002, which complaint continued through September 2004. Pl. 56.1 at ¶¶ 86-87. A pending administrative proceeding tolls the statute of limitations for housing discrimination claims. 42 U.S.C. § 3613(a)(1)(B). Plaintiffs argue that the 2000-2002 claims remain actionable due to the toll. Plaintiffs also argue that, once the 2000-2002 claims are actionable, the statements and events in 1995 and 1996 are ...


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