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DeSouza v. Park West Apartments, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 11, 2018

HAILEE R. DESOUZA, Plaintiff,
v.
PARK WEST APARTMENTS, INC. et al. Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         Hailee R. DeSouza (“DeSouza”) brings this suit[1] against his landlord, Park West Apartments, Inc., and The Community Builders, Inc., the nonprofit corporation that controls it (collectively “Park West”).[2] DeSouza chiefly claims that Park West racially discriminated and retaliated against him by repeatedly attempting to evict him. He also claims that Park West violated his privacy rights by informing other tenants of the eviction proceedings and that Park West's former property manager, Kim Doughtie, falsely accused him of sexually assaulting her daughter and granddaughter. Based upon these accusations, he set out claims against Park West for: (i) race discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) (Counts 1, 2, and 3); (ii) violation of the First Amendment (Count 4); (iii) violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count 5); (iv) interference, coercion or intimidation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617 of the FHA (Count 6); (v) discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count 7); (vi) violation of the Privacy Rights Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a (“Privacy Act”)

         (Count 8); and (vii) common law slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress for Ms. Doughtie's alleged false sexual assault allegation[3] (Count 9). (See ECF No. 100-2 at 17-19). Park West moved for summary judgment on all counts. (ECF No. 128). I granted the motion in part, but denied it with respect to the portion of DeSouza's retaliation claims under the FHA concerning Park West's filing of an affidavit of noncompliance in March 2015 (Counts 1, 2, 3, 6). Now before me is Park West's motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 162), and what I construe as a motion for reconsideration filed by DeSouza (ECF No. 163; ECF No. 164). For the reasons that follow, Park West's motion for reconsideration is granted and DeSouza's motion is denied.

         I. Background [4]

         A. Eviction Proceedings

         DeSouza is a tenant of Park West and has been for approximately thirteen years. In January 2014, he attained a position as a senior project engineer in Texas-he would remain in this position until April 2014. Given the change in his income upon attaining this position, DeSouza had to complete an interim recertification to retain his Section 8 subsidy. The parties disagreed regarding whether DeSouza complied with this requirement. While Park West contended that DeSouza failed to complete this process, DeSouza maintained that he had complied by reporting his new income. Park West subsequently issued DeSouza a Notice to Quit on April 22, 2014, for failing to complete the recertification process. On June 12, 2014, DeSouza received an eviction notice for failing to complete the recertification process in violation of his lease.

         The parties mediated the matter with a housing court mediator on August 29, 2014, resulting in the execution of a Stipulated Agreement (“Agreement”) providing, among other things, that DeSouza agreed to complete the recertification process. (See ECF No. 130-8, Exhibit H, at 2 (“Stipulated Agreement”).) The Agreement also provided that “[b]oth parties shall be respectful and courteous to one another.” (Id.) The parties' subsequent meeting to complete the recertification process went poorly. During the meeting, Park West staff asked DeSouza several times whether he was recording them. He refused to answer. Park West staff subsequently asked DeSouza to leave. Park West then filed an affidavit of non-compliance with the Stipulated Agreement documenting the incident. A hearing was held in Connecticut Superior Court, but the judge never issued an order on the matter.

         In December 2014, DeSouza was served with a notice of intent to remove subsidy based on information received by Park West demonstrating that he was making $69 per hour in a new job. Despite this notice, DeSouza refused to pay the market rent for his apartment. On February 26, 2015, as the parties' dispute over this matter was unfolding, Park West manager Kim Doughtie sent an email to Park West Attorney Neil Paul stating as follows:

This letter was hand delivered about 15 minutes ago by Desouza himself. I am hoping you can get this man evicted. I consider his words a hate crime which [sic] is against the law. It is also untrue slander. I have never had an accident let alone a hit and run. Being a lawyer please tell me how to stop this person????

(ECF No. 88-2 at 3) The remainder of the email chain contained in the document at issue did not shed light upon the context for this email. A few weeks later, Park West filed a second affidavit of noncompliance with the Stipulated Agreement on March 11, 2015. In the affidavit, Park West avers that DeSouza's use of discourteous language directed toward itself and Doughtie violated the portion of the Stipulated Agreement requiring the parties to be courteous to one another. (See ECF No. 130-17 at 2, Exhibit Q, Affidavit of Noncompliance (“Second Affidavit of Noncompliance”).) Park West noted in the affidavit that DeSouza had used various epithets to refer to it and had, amongst other discourtesies, compared Ms. Doughtie to Charles Manson and Susan Smith, a woman who had drowned her two young children in South Carolina. (See id.) A Connecticut Superior Court judge subsequently held hearings on the matter and concluded that DeSouza had an obligation to pay market rent for his apartment for those months he was employed. The judge concluded that Park West had failed to prove any other infractions of the Stipulated Agreement by a preponderance of the evidence. DeSouza ultimately paid his arrearage to Park West in July 2015 and has continued to live in his apartment since that time.

         B. DeSouza's HUD Complaints

         DeSouza filed various complaints with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) during the events described above. On February 18, 2014, he filed a complaint with HUD offices in Washington, DC, and Boston, Massachusetts. The complaint recounted a variety of DeSouza's disputes with Park West staff, alleging among other things that Park West management had informed him that they wanted him to leave his apartment. DeSouza sent another copy of his HUD complaint to HUD's Washington and Boston offices on March 18, 2014. He mailed a document containing three questions concerning Park West's alleged malfeasance to various HUD offices on April 23, 2014. The parties disputed whether Park West had notice of the February and March complaints at the time they were filed. DeSouza filed four or five more complaints with HUD and various other parties between October 8, 2014, and October 11, 2014, averring that Park West had violated his right to privacy by informing other tenants about the eviction proceedings against him.

         C. Ruling on Park West's Motion for Summary Judgment

          On June 14, 2018, I issued a ruling on Park West's motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 160 (“SJ Ruling”).) I granted Park West's motion with respect to the majority of DeSouza's claims but rejected it with respect “to the portion of DeSouza's retaliation claims under the FHA concerning Park West's filing of an affidavit of noncompliance in March of 2015 (Counts 1, 2, 3, 6). (Id. at 2.) I concluded that these latter claims survived due to the February 26, 2015 email from Ms. Doughty to Attorney Paul quoted above. (Id. at 27.) In particular, I noted that Doughtie's statement that she was “hoping that [Attorney Paul] can get [DeSouza] evicted” suggested “that she wished DeSouza to be evicted as a general matter rather than as a result of specific misconduct on his part.” (Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).) I concluded that this email raised an inference of retaliation given that Park West filed a second affidavit of non-compliance with the Stipulated Agreement a few weeks after the email was sent. (Id. at 27, 30.) I concluded that “[w]hile the email does not mention ...


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