Texas v. Crest Asset Management, Inc.

Citation85 F.Supp.2d 722
Decision Date29 February 2000
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A. H-98-3381.,Civ.A. H-98-3381.
PartiesSam TEXAS a/k/a Issam M. Fayad, Plaintiff, v. CREST ASSET MANAGEMENT, INC., d/b/a The Fountain at San Felipe, Fountainview Houston Apartments, L.T.D., David Thornton and Reta Krantz, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas

Peter Costea, Houston, TX, for Plaintiff.

Sam Texas, Houston, TX, plaintiff pro se.

John S. Broude, Broude Smith et al., Ft Worth, TX, Jerry L. Betsill, Broude Smith et al., Ft Worth, TX, for defendants.


CRONE, United States Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the court is Defendants Crest Asset Management, Inc., d/b/a The Fountain at San Felipe, Fountainview Houston Apartments, Ltd., David Thornton, and Reta Krantz's Joint Motion for Summary Judgment (# 34). Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiff Sam Texas's ("Texas"), a/k/a Issam M. Fayad, claims under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, and the Texas Fair Housing Act ("TFHA"), TEX. PROP.CODE ANN. §§ 301.001-301.171, as well as his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Texas common law. Having reviewed the pending motion, the submissions of the parties, the pleadings, and the applicable law, the court is of the opinion that Defendants' motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

Texas, who is of Lebanese descent, was born in Liberia, Africa. He immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager and became a United States citizen in the 1980s. According to his complaint, he formally changed his name from Issam M. Fayad to "Sam Texas" on July 3, 1998.

In 1987, Texas moved into the Three Fountains II Apartments ("the complex"). In 1996, Defendant Crest Asset Management, Inc. ("Crest") purchased the complex, assuming responsibility for its operation and management. Texas's tenancy remained continuous and uninterrupted through February 1999. He claims that during this period, he diligently paid his rent and performed all his other obligations as a tenant. Texas further contends that, prior to Defendants' purchase of the complex, he never experienced difficulties with the complex's owners or managers.

In 1997, when renovation work was being performed on the complex, a rainstorm caused the ceiling over Texas's bedroom to collapse, allegedly resulting in approximately $15,000.00 in damages to his personal property. He requested reimbursement from Defendant David Thornton ("Thornton"), Senior Vice-President of Crest. Texas claims that Thornton initially refused to pay him or to provide him with the name of the complex's insurance carrier so that he could file a claim. Consequently, on September 23, 1997, Texas filed administrative complaints against Thornton and the complex with the City of Houston, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other agencies, alleging violation of his fair housing rights. Texas asserts that, in the interim, he was unable to live in his apartment due to its damaged condition. In December 1997, Thornton offered him a monetary settlement of $1,500.00 in damages and, according to Texas, an immediate move to a new unit. Texas maintains that Thornton gave him three days to accept the settlement or leave the complex, and that he, therefore, "had no choice but accept the terms of the settlement." Texas signed the settlement agreement on December 23, 1997, but claims that, contrary to Thornton's agreement, he was not given the opportunity to move into a new unit until March 1, 1998. Upon his move to a newly renovated unit, his rent was increased from $450.00 per month to $605.00 per month, consistent with the rental increases required of other tenants moving into renovated units.

Texas asserts that during this period, Thornton, Defendant Reta Krantz ("Krantz"), the manager of the complex, and Kathy Perry ("Perry"), Krantz's predecessor, subjected him to discrimination and harassment based on his national origin. He further maintains that in early 1997, Ester Damlarkaya ("Damlarkaya"), the complex's first manager following Crest's acquisition of the property, specifically told him that the new management had a policy of terminating or failing to renew the leases of tenants of Arabic, African, or Hispanic descent and advised him that Thornton wanted him to leave the complex.

Texas claims that on three occasions in June 1998, he was visited by officers of the Houston Police Department ("the HPD"). These officers allegedly informed him that Thornton was seeking to have him arrested for complaining to authorities about the difficulties he was having with the complex's management. Also in June 1998, a water leak in the ceiling of the new unit caused the roof over his bedroom to collapse, giving rise to damages of approximately $14,000.00 to his personal property. Texas alleges that the damaged property was inspected and photographed by Krantz, management employee Melinda Rawls ("Rawls"), and two of the complex's maintenance employees, all of whom helped him dispose of it in a refuse bin on the premises. Texas maintains that although he complied immediately with a request to provide an itemized list of the damaged property, he has received no compensation to date. Texas further asserts that Krantz told him that "Defendants would not pay [him] anything because that was intended as a lesson to force [him] to leave the apartment complex and go back to Lebanon." He also claims that management again refused to provide him the name of the complex's insurance carrier in order to permit him to make a claim for his property loss. Finally, he complains that he was not given credit on his rent for a three-week period during which time he had to live elsewhere because of the water leak.

On October 13, 1998, Texas instituted this action against Defendants, alleging claims of national origin discrimination and retaliation under the FHA and TFHA and of intentional infliction of emotional distress under Texas common law. Subsequently, on January 13, 1999, Defendants' counsel, Jerry L. Betsill, sent Texas a letter informing him that his lease would not be renewed after it expired on February 28, 1999. Texas asserts that Defendants failed to renew his lease because of discrimination due to his national origin and in retaliation for his complaints about Defendants' discriminatory actions. He seeks recovery of actual, compensatory, and punitive damages as well as prejudgment and postjudgment interest, costs, and attorneys' fees.

II. Analysis
A. Summary Judgment Standard

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c). The parties seeking summary judgment bear the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for their motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits, if any, which they believe demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Colson v. Grohman, 174 F.3d 498, 506 (5th Cir.1999); Marshall v. East Carroll Parish Hosp. Serv. Dist., 134 F.3d 319, 321 (5th Cir.1998); Wenner v. Texas Lottery Comm'n, 123 F.3d 321, 324 (5th Cir.1997), cert. denied, 523 U.S. 1073, 118 S.Ct. 1514, 140 L.Ed.2d 667 (1998). The moving parties, however, need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's case. See Wallace v. Texas Tech Univ., 80 F.3d 1042, 1047 (5th Cir.1996) (citing Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)).

Once a proper motion has been made, the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials in the pleadings, but must present affirmative evidence, setting forth specific facts, to show the existence of a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Colson, 174 F.3d at 506; Marshall, 134 F.3d at 321-22; Wallace, 80 F.3d at 1047; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. All the evidence must be construed "in the light most favorable to the non-moving party without weighing the evidence, assessing its probative value, or resolving any factual disputes." Williams v. Time Warner Operation, Inc., 98 F.3d 179, 181 (5th Cir.1996) (citing Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 987 F.2d 324, 327 n. 14 (5th Cir.1993)); see Colson, 174 F.3d at 506; Marshall, 134 F.3d at 321; Messer v. Meno, 130 F.3d 130, 134 (5th Cir.1997), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1067, 119 S.Ct. 794, 142 L.Ed.2d 657 (1999); Hart v. O'Brien, 127 F.3d 424, 435 (5th Cir.1997), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1103, 119 S.Ct. 868, 142 L.Ed.2d 770 (1999); Songbyrd, Inc. v. Bearsville Records, Inc., 104 F.3d 773, 776 (5th Cir.1997). "`The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'" Reves v. Ernst & Young, 507 U.S. 170, 190 n. 3, 113 S.Ct. 1163, 122 L.Ed.2d 525 (1993) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505); Palmer v. BRG of Ga., Inc., 498 U.S. 46, 49 n. 5, 111 S.Ct. 401, 112 L.Ed.2d 349 (1990); see Marshall, 134 F.3d at 321. Nonetheless, "`only reasonable inferences can be drawn from the evidence in favor of the nonmoving party.'" Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Tech. Servs., 504 U.S. 451, 469 n. 14, 112 S.Ct. 2072, 119 L.Ed.2d 265 (1992) (emphasis in original). "If the [nonmoving party's] theory is ... senseless, no reasonable jury could find in its favor, and summary judgment should be granted." Id. at...

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