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Britt v. Elm City Communities

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 11, 2019



          Janet C. Hall Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.


         Plaintiff Charles Lamont Britt (“Britt”) filed this action pro se against his former landlord, Elm City Communities (“Elm City”), in connection with his eviction from a public housing unit.[1] See generally Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. No. 1). Construed liberally, Britt's Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 33-1) asserts (1) a Due Process claim pursuant to section 1983 of title 42 of the United States Code, and (2) a state law claim for defamation.[2] The parties now cross-move for summary judgment. See generally Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.'s Mot.”) (Doc. No. 40); Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (“Pl.'s Mot.”) (Doc. No. 55).

         For the reasons that follow, both Motions are denied.

         II. BACKGROUND[3]

         On March 2, 2015, Britt entered into a lease agreement (the “Lease”) with Elm City for a public housing unit located at 358 Orange Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511 (the “Apartment”). Defendant's Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement (“Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1”) (Doc. No. 42) at ¶¶ 1-4. The Lease required Britt to, inter alia, refrain from engaging in drug-related criminal activity or other criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, and right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents. Id. at ¶ 6.

         On November 16, 2015, Britt was arrested and charged with selling narcotics out of the Apartment. Id. at ¶ 11. Britt posted bail on the same day of his arrest. Affidavit of Charles Lamont Britt (“Pl.'s Aff.”) (Doc. No. 55-2) at ¶ 5. He continued to live at the Apartment until December 21, 2015, when he was arrested in Pennsylvania on different charges. Id. at ¶ 6. Britt was incarcerated in Pennsylvania between December 21, 2015, and June 2, 2016. Id.

         Following Britt's arrest on November 16, 2015, Elm City took steps to terminate the Lease and evict Britt from the Apartment pursuant to Connecticut's summary process statute.[4] Specifically, Elm City claims that its attorney mailed a Pre-Termination Notice to the Apartment on December 1, 2015.[5] Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 12. This Notice stated that Britt was in violation of his Lease because his Apartment had become “the target of an ongoing investigation regarding drug sales” and because Britt had been arrested on charges of selling narcotics out of the Apartment. Exhibit 3 (“Ex. 3”) (Doc. No. 41-3) at 2-3. The Pre-Termination Notice provided Britt with a 15-day period for requesting “a grievance hearing before an impartial person or panel, ” although it also noted that Elm City could “decline to afford [Britt] a grievance hearing” because Britt's alleged violation of the Lease involved criminal activity. Id. at 5. Finally, the Notice advised that, if Britt did not request a grievance hearing, or if the grievance hearing was resolved against Britt, “an immediate action to recover possession of the premises may be commenced by [Elm City].” Id.

         Elm City did not receive a grievance hearing request from Britt within the 15-day period. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 16. On January 9, 2016, a State Marshall attempted to serve Britt with a Notice to Quit via abode service by leaving a copy of the Notice at the Apartment. Id. at ¶ 17. The Notice to Quit directed Britt to move out of the Apartment by January 14, 2016, and it warned that, if Britt failed to do so, “an eviction (summary process case) may be started against [him].” Ex. 5 (Doc. No. 41-5) at 2-3.

         Elm City subsequently filed a summary process action against Britt in the New Haven Housing Court (the “Housing Court”) with a return date of February 6, 2016. Def.'s L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 18. Britt failed to appear in the summary process action, and the Housing Court issued a summary process execution for possession of the Apartment on March 2, 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 19, 20.


         On a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Wright v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2016). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, and present “such proof as would allow a reasonable juror to return a verdict in [its] favor, ” Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). “An issue of fact is genuine and material if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc., 841 F.3d 155, 162 (2d Cir. 2016).

         In assessing the record to determine whether there are disputed issues of material fact, the trial court must “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” LaFond v. Gen. Physics Servs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 175 (2d Cir. 1995). “Where it is clear that no rational finder of fact ‘could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight,' summary judgment should be granted.” F.D.I.C. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). On the other hand, where “reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, ” the question must be left to the finder of fact. Cortes v. MTA N.Y. City Transit, 802 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 59 (2d Cir. 1997)).

         IV. ...

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