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Novak v. Pearlstein

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 24, 2016

MICHAEL NOVAK, CHRISTINA NOVAK and their daughter, T.N., Plaintiffs,
v.
LEVENFELD PEARLSTEIN, STATE PARKWAY CONDOMINIUM ASS'N, THE BOARD OF THE STATE PARKWAY CONDOMINIUM ASS'N, DONNA WEBER, and LIEBERMAN MANAGEMENT SERVS., INC., Defendants.

          Michael J. Novak, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

          Christina Bugelas Novak, Plaintiff, Pro se.

          T.N., Plaintiff, Pro se.

          Lieberman Management Services, Inc., Defendant, represented by Carrie A. Durkin, Litchfield Cavo & Jason Edward Hunter, Litchfield Cavo LLP.

          Donna Weber, Defendant, represented by Carrie A. Durkin, Litchfield Cavo & Jason Edward Hunter, Litchfield Cavo LLP.

          The State Parkway Condominium Association, Defendant, represented by Carrie A. Durkin, Litchfield Cavo & Jason Edward Hunter, Litchfield Cavo LLP.

          ORDER

          JEFFREY T. GILBERT, Magistrate Judge.

         Defendants' Second Amended Motion for Protective Order [ECF No. 276] is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants shall produce the documents that they are required to produce in accordance with this Order by 7/11/16, which is 15 days from the date of this Order. A status hearing is set for 8/4/16 at 11:00 a.m. See Statement for further details.

         STATEMENT

         Defendants The Board of Directors of the State Parkway Condominium Association, Lieberman Management Services, Inc., and Donna Weber (collectively, "Association Defendants") have moved for a protective order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c). Association Defendants seek protection against written discovery served by Plaintiffs Michael Novak, Christina Novak, and T.N. (collectively, "Plaintiffs").

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), the scope of discovery is limited to nonprivileged matter that is relevant to a party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1).

         To determine the scope of discovery in this case, the place to begin is with the claims now before the Court. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged claims under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), and under state law (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress). In 2014, the Court dismissed all of the state law claims and the FHA claim against Levenfeld Pearlstein. [ECF No. 99, at 21, 23, 26.] That left the FHA claims - Counts II through IV - which allege discrimination and retaliation (including coercion, harassment, and so on) by Association Defendants.

         Each of the surviving FHA claims is limited in its temporal scope. Plaintiffs allege in each count that Association Defendants discriminated and retaliated against them "[f]rom at least September 4, 2007[.]" [ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 65, 76, 87.] According to paragraph 1 of the complaint, the Association Defendants have engaged in discriminatory and retaliatory conduct "ever since... January 2007." Id. ¶ 1. See also id. ¶¶ 13 ("On or about January 3, 2007, [Mr. Novak] engaged in protected activity...."); 44 ("Between the filing of MJN's first HUD Complaint in January 2007 and this lawsuit...."). The first specific instance of discrimination or retaliation alleged in the complaint occurred in September, 2007. Id. ¶ 14. The only reference in the complaint to pre-2007 conduct has to do with two fines allegedly assessed against Plaintiffs in December, 2006. Id. ¶¶ 40, 41. Thus, the reasonable reading of the complaint that is most favorable to Plaintiffs reveals that the claims at issue in this case do not involve discrimination or retaliation that occurred before December, 2006.

         The surviving FHA claims are also limited in their substantive sweep. There is one paragraph of the complaint that alleges in vague, general terms that "there were also numerous other incidents" (i.e. instances not described in the complaint) of discrimination and retaliation. Id. ¶ 44. But each count limits itself to the factual allegations in the complaint, referring three times to either "[t]he discriminatory practices described above" or "[t]he conduct described above." Id. ¶¶ 67, 68, 69, 78, 79, 80, 89, 90, 91.

         The complaint is premised upon three main sets of factual allegations. First, Plaintiffs allege that Association Defendants discriminated and retaliated against Plaintiffs with respect to their service animal. Id. ¶¶ 15-23, 25, 28-29, 31. Plaintiffs specifically allege that Association Defendants improperly (1) prohibited Plaintiffs from brining their service animal through common areas and on the passenger elevator, (2) harassed Plaintiffs for doing so (by asking questions and threatening to discipline them), and (3) actually imposed improper discipline for doing so (mostly in the form of fines). Id. Second, Plaintiffs allege that Association Defendants retaliated against them for complaining about Association Defendants' conduct by filing a state court lawsuit that Association Defendants knew was meritless. Id. ¶¶ 30, 32-38. Third, Plaintiffs allege that Association Defendants discriminated and retaliated against them by threatening to and actually imposing improper discipline for supposed violations of the condominium association's rules regarding pets, noise, and standards of behavior. Id. ¶¶ 39-43. Plaintiffs allege that Association Defendants falsely accused them of violating the rules at least twelve times, and imposed fines without following the proper procedural requirements at least seven times (which ultimately resulted in a lien on their home). Id.

         The complaint also briefly mentions several additional matters. Plaintiffs allege that, in October, 2007, they asked Association Defendants, among other things, not to take photos of T.N., and to permit Plaintiffs to email vendors and watch TV in the exercise room. Id. ¶ 27-28. Plaintiffs also allege that, when responding to these requests, Association Defendants accused them of being too noisy. Id. Plaintiffs further allege that some of the Association Defendants retaliated against Plaintiffs by not allowing them to speak at certain meetings of the Board of Directors, telling them to stop emailing management, banning them from entering Defendant Weber's office unless there was an emergency, and falsely accusing them of making too many document requests. Id. ¶¶ 24, 27, 28. Plaintiffs also allege that Association Defendants improperly denied their request to have a doorman open the south perimeter gate (it is unclear whether this allegedly was discrimination, retaliation, or both). Id. ¶ 28. Finally, in their requests for relief, Plaintiffs ...


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