Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City (f/K/A Parc Vista), Case No. 1:09–CV–0857.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
Writing for the CourtMEMORANDUM OPINION
Citation795 F.Supp.2d 402
PartiesLinda B. MATARESE, et al., Plaintiffs,v.ARCHSTONE PENTAGON CITY (f/k/a Parc Vista), et al., Defendants.
Decision Date31 May 2011
Docket NumberCase No. 1:09–CV–0857.

795 F.Supp.2d 402

Linda B. MATARESE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ARCHSTONE PENTAGON CITY (f/k/a Parc Vista), et al., Defendants.

Case No. 1:09–CV–0857.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia,Alexandria Division.

May 31, 2011.


[795 F.Supp.2d 411]

John Thomas Spiggle, The Spiggle Law Firm PLLC, Arlington, VA, for Plaintiffs.John Benjamin Raftery, Thomas William Repczynski, Offit Kurman P.C., Bethesda, MD, for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION
GERALD BRUCE LEE, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on a six-day nonjury trial for the housing discrimination claims of Plaintiffs Ms. Linda and Mr. Domenic Matarese against Defendants Smith Property Holdings Parc Vista LLC (“SP Holdings”), Archstone Communities, LLC, Mr. Malcolm McGregor, Mr. Mitchell Mann, and Mr. Amilcar Garcia.1 This case is a housing disability

[795 F.Supp.2d 412]

discrimination action arising under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq. (2006),2 and the Virginia Fair Housing Law (“VFHL”), Va.Code Ann. §§ 36–96.1 et seq. (2000).3 Plaintiffs Ms. Linda and Mr. Domenic Matarese claim that Defendants violated these federal and state fair housing laws by discriminating against them because of Ms. Matarese's handicap.

On July 31, 2009, Plaintiffs filed their original Complaint, which they amended on December 30, 2009 and again on March 3, 2010.4 In their Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs asserted the following claims of discrimination on the basis of handicap: refusal to rent in violation of FHA § 3604(f)(1) and VFHL § 36–96.3(A)(8) (Counts I & II); discrimination in the terms, conditions, and privileges of the rental of a dwelling in violation of FHA § 3604(f)(2) and VFHL § 36–96.3(A)(9) (Counts III & IV); refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, and services in violation of FHA § 3604(f)(3)(B) and VFHL § 36–96.3(B) (Counts V & VI); notice and statement of preference, limitation, or discrimination based on handicap in violation of FHA § 3604(c) and VFHL § 36–96.3(A)(3) (Counts VII & VIII); statements intended to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with Plaintiffs' exercise of enjoyment of fair housing in violation of FHA § 3617 and VFHL § 36–96.5 (Counts IX & X); negligence as to the Archstone Defendants and Defendants McGregor, Mann, and Nur (Count XI); and retaliation in violation of FHA § 3617, VFHL § 36–96.5, and regulation 135–50–220 of the Virginia Fair Housing Regulations (Count XII).

At the summary judgment stage, only Counts I–VIII, XI, and XII remained. 5 Pursuant to the Court's November 23,

[795 F.Supp.2d 413]

2011 Order and January 5, 2011 Memorandum Opinion, 761 F.Supp.2d 346 (E.D.Va.2011), the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The following claims proceeded to trial: refusal to rent in violation of FHA § 3604(f)(1) and VFHL § 36–96.3(A)(8) (Counts I & II) (collectively, “refusal to rent claims”); discrimination in the terms, conditions, and privileges of the rental of a dwelling in violation of FHA § 3604(f)(2) and VFHL § 36–96.3(A)(9) (Counts III & IV); notice and statement of preference, limitation, or discrimination based on handicap in violation of FHA § 3604(c) and VFHL § 36–96.3(A)(3) (Counts VII & VIII); and retaliation in violation of FHA § 3617, VFHL § 36–96.5, and regulation 135–50–220 of the Virginia Fair Housing Regulations (Count XII). Based on these remaining claims, the following issues are before the Court.

The first issue is whether Ms. Matarese qualifies as an individual with a handicap under the FHA. The Court holds that Plaintiffs have proven that Ms. Matarese qualifies as an individual with a handicap under the FHA because Defendants regarded her as having a condition that substantially limited her breathing and treated her as such.

The second issue is whether Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs on the basis of Ms. Matarese's handicap in violation of FHA § 3604(f)(1) and VFHL section 36–96.3(A)(8) when they decided not to renew Plaintiffs' lease and refused to allow Plaintiffs to rent an apartment at another Archstone location. The Court finds that Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs on the basis of Ms. Matarese's handicap by nonrenewing Plaintiffs' lease, converting them to a month-to-month tenancy, and refusing to allow them to rent at a different Archstone location because the actions were taken with discriminatory intent.

The third issue is whether Defendants discriminated in the terms, conditions, and privileges of the rental of a dwelling because of Ms. Matarese's handicap in violation of FHA § 3604(f)(2) and VFHL section 36–96.3(A)(9). The Court holds that Defendants violated FHA § 3604(f)(2) and VFHL section 36–96.3(A)(9) by denying Plaintiffs' the benefits, including rental discounts, afforded to long-term residents when they increased Plaintiffs' rent by an exorbitant rate and by converting Plaintiffs to a month-to-month tenancy instead of renewing their 12–month lease.

The fourth issue is whether Defendants McGregor and Mann made discriminatory statements with respect to the rental of a dwelling in violation of FHA § 3604(c) and VFHL section 36–96.3(A)(3) by making statements during the decision-making process that, under the ordinary listener standard, indicated a preference, limitation, or discrimination against Ms. Matarese on the basis of her handicap. The Court holds that, under the ordinary listener standard, Defendants McGregor and Mann made discriminatory statements against Ms. Matarese on the basis of her handicap when (1) Defendant McGregor told Ms. Matarese that they were not renewing Plaintiffs' lease because they were tired of accommodating her chemical sensitivities, and (2) Defendant Mann told Ms. Matarese that they would not reconsider the nonrenewal or transfer Plaintiffs to a different Archstone location because there were other communities in the area that would better meet her needs.

The fifth issue is whether Defendants retaliated against Plaintiffs for engaging in protected activity in violation of FHA § 3617, VFHL section 36–96.5, and regulation 135–50–220 of the Virginia Fair Housing Regulations for exercising protected activity. The Court finds that Defendants retaliated against Plaintiffs for engaging in

[795 F.Supp.2d 414]

protected activity when they decided not to renew Plaintiffs' lease, refused to allow Plaintiffs to rent an apartment at another Archstone location, decided not to renew the lease of Ms. Matarese's mother, and increased the rent of Plaintiffs' and Ms. Bauman at exorbitant rates because Plaintiffs engaged in protected activity.

The sixth issue is whether Plaintiffs are entitled to compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs, prejudgment interest, and injunctive relief because they have demonstrated that they were injured as a result of Defendants' discrimination. The Court holds that Plaintiffs are entitled to (1) compensatory damages for the economic loss they suffered as a result of Defendants' FHA and VFHL violations; (2) compensatory damages for emotional distress; (3) punitive damages as against Defendant McGregor; (4) attorneys' fees and costs; (5) prejudgment interest; and (6) equitable relief to correct any lingering discrimination and prevent future occurrence.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In a non-jury case, the court must make specific findings of fact and separately state its conclusions of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a)(1). The trial judge has a function of finding the facts, weighing the evidence, and choosing from among conflicting inferences and conclusions those which he considers most reasonable. Penn–Texas Corp. v. Morse, 242 F.2d 243, 247 (7th Cir.1957) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The trial judge has the inherent right to disregard testimony of any witness when satisfied that the witness is not telling the truth, or the testimony is inherently improbable due to inaccuracy, uncertainty, interest, or bias. Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see Columbus–Am. Discovery Grp. v. Atl. Mut. Ins. Co., 56 F.3d 556, 567 (4th Cir.1995) (internal quotation omitted) (stating that that factfinder is in a better position to make judgments about the reliability of some forms of evidence, including evaluation of the credibility of witnesses). It is the duty of the trial judge sitting without a jury to appraise the testimony and demeanor of witnesses. See Burgess v. Farrell Lines, Inc., 335 F.2d 885, 889 (4th Cir.1964).

To satisfy the demands of Rule 52(a), a trial court must do more than announce statements of ultimate fact. United States ex rel. Belcon, Inc. v. Sherman Const. Co., 800 F.2d 1321, 1324 (4th Cir.1986) (citation omitted). The court must support its rulings by spelling out the subordinate facts on which it relies. Id.

The language of Rule 52 has been construed

not to require a court to make findings on all facts presented or to make detailed evidentiary findings; if the findings are sufficient to support the ultimate conclusion of the court they are sufficient. Nor is it necessary that the trial court make findings asserting the negative of each issue of fact raised. It is sufficient if the special affirmative facts found by the court, construed as a whole, negative each rejected contention. The ultimate test as to the adequacy of the findings will always be whether they are sufficiently comprehensive and pertinent to the issues to provide a basis for decision and whether they are supported by the evidence.

Darter v. Greenville Cmty. Hotel Corp., 301 F.2d 70, 75 (4th Cir.1962). This rule does not require that the trial court set out findings on all the myriad factual questions that arise in a case. Golf City, Inc. v. Wilson Sporting Goods, Co., 555 F.2d 426, 433 (5th Cir.1977). As to whether findings of fact are sufficient depends upon the particular facts of each individual case, and

[795 F.Supp.2d 415]

no general rule can govern. Darter, 301 F.2d at 75.
II. FINDINGS
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19 practice notes
  • Dickinson v. Univ. of N.C., No. 1:14cv412.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 16 Marzo 2015
    ...(observing that “[i]n enacting the ADAAA, Congress abrogated earlier inconsistent caselaw”); Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City, 795 F.Supp.2d 402, 434 n. 15 (E.D.Va.2011) (“Both Rohan v. Networks Presentations LLC and EEOC v. Sara Lee Corp. rely heavily on Supreme Court cases that were ex......
  • Fedynich v. Lozano, Civil Action No. 3:20cv260
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 23 Febrero 2021
    ...or enjoyment of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 3604 to equal services and conditions of housing." Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City, 795 F. Supp. 2d 402, 442 (E.D. Va. 2011), vacated in part on other grounds, 468 F. App'x 283 (4th Cir. 2012). Read liberally, the Amended Complaint provides that ......
  • May v. Martin Fein Interest Ltd., 5:21-CV-83-M
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • 16 Junio 2021
    ...VTT Mgmt, Inc., No. 316CV00826RJCDSC, 2018 WL 4494985, at *3 (W.D. N.C. Sept. 18, 2018) (quoting Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City, 795 F.Supp.2d 402, 442 (E.D. Va. 2011), aff'd in part, vacated in part 468 Fed.Appx. 283 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd, 748 Fed.Appx. 563 (4th Cir. 2019). Plaintif......
  • Dickinson v. Univ. of N.C., 1:14cv412
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 16 Marzo 2015
    ...(observing that "[i]n enacting the ADAAA, Congress abrogated earlier inconsistent caselaw"); Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City, 795 F. Supp. 2d 402, 434 n.15 (E.D. Va.Page 172011) ("Both Rohan v. Networks Presentations LLC and EEOC v. Sara Lee Corp. rely heavily on Supreme Court cases tha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Dickinson v. Univ. of N.C., No. 1:14cv412.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 16 Marzo 2015
    ...(observing that “[i]n enacting the ADAAA, Congress abrogated earlier inconsistent caselaw”); Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City, 795 F.Supp.2d 402, 434 n. 15 (E.D.Va.2011) (“Both Rohan v. Networks Presentations LLC and EEOC v. Sara Lee Corp. rely heavily on Supreme Court cases that were ex......
  • Fedynich v. Lozano, Civil Action No. 3:20cv260
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 23 Febrero 2021
    ...or enjoyment of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 3604 to equal services and conditions of housing." Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City, 795 F. Supp. 2d 402, 442 (E.D. Va. 2011), vacated in part on other grounds, 468 F. App'x 283 (4th Cir. 2012). Read liberally, the Amended Complaint provides that ......
  • May v. Martin Fein Interest Ltd., 5:21-CV-83-M
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • 16 Junio 2021
    ...VTT Mgmt, Inc., No. 316CV00826RJCDSC, 2018 WL 4494985, at *3 (W.D. N.C. Sept. 18, 2018) (quoting Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City, 795 F.Supp.2d 402, 442 (E.D. Va. 2011), aff'd in part, vacated in part 468 Fed.Appx. 283 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd, 748 Fed.Appx. 563 (4th Cir. 2019). Plaintif......
  • Dickinson v. Univ. of N.C., 1:14cv412
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 16 Marzo 2015
    ...(observing that "[i]n enacting the ADAAA, Congress abrogated earlier inconsistent caselaw"); Matarese v. Archstone Pentagon City, 795 F. Supp. 2d 402, 434 n.15 (E.D. Va.Page 172011) ("Both Rohan v. Networks Presentations LLC and EEOC v. Sara Lee Corp. rely heavily on Supreme Court cases tha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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