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Babbit v. National Investments, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

November 14, 2017



          Lincoln D. Almond, United States Magistrate Judge

         Pending before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 by Defendant National Investments, Ltd. and Subsidized Properties, II, LP (“Defendants”) (ECF Doc. No. 21) and Plaintiff Joanne Babbitt. (ECF Doc. No. 26). This matter has been referred to me for preliminary review, findings and recommended disposition. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); LR Cv 72(a). After reviewing the Memoranda submitted and relevant case law, I recommend that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Doc. No. 21) be GRANTED and Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Doc. No. 26) be DENIED.


         The Complaint in this matter arises from Plaintiff's claim that Defendants violated the Federal Fair Housing Act and that Plaintiff suffered damages as a result thereof. The events giving rise to Plaintiff's claim are centered upon her interactions with a property manager at Evergreen Drive Apartments, a Section 8 Housing Complex located in East Providence, Rhode Island. At all times material to this action, Subsidized Properties, II, LP does business as Evergreen Drive Apartments. (ECF Doc. No. 23 at ¶ 25). At all times material to this action, Defendant, National Investments, Ltd., has been the Management Agent for Evergreen Drive Apartments. Id. ¶ 26. It is undisputed that Plaintiff was never a tenant or resident of Evergreen Drive Apartments. She alleges that her daughter and granddaughter are “ex-tenants” and that her “young cousin” is a tenant at least as of the filing date of Plaintiff's Complaint. (ECF Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 3, 7, 8).


         Local Rule Cv 56 requires a party moving for summary judgment to file a “Statement of Undisputed Facts that concisely sets forth all facts that the movant contends are undisputed....” See LR Cv 56(a)(1). Any fact alleged in the movant's Statement of Undisputed Facts is deemed admitted unless expressly denied or otherwise controverted by a party objecting to the Motion. LR Cv 56(a)(3). In addition, the objecting party shall file a Statement of Disputed and/or Undisputed Facts setting forth disputed facts and/or additional undisputed facts that the objecting party contends preclude summary judgment. Id. at (a)(3)-(4). These Local Rules carry the force of law and are binding upon the litigants and upon the court itself. Barber v. Verizon New England, Inc., No. Civ.A. 05-390-ML, 2006 WL 3524465 (D.R.I. Dec. 6, 2006) (quoting Air Line Pilots Ass'n v. Precision Valley Aviation, Inc., 26 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir.1994) (citations and footnote omitted)). Pursuant to LR Cv 56(a)(3), Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts (ECF Doc. No. 23) is deemed admitted because Plaintiff did not file any Objection to the Motion or any counter-statement of disputed facts as permitted under Local Rule Cv 56(a)(3). The following facts are gleaned from Defendants' Submission:

         On November 26, 2013, the City of East Providence Police Department dispatched Officer Steven Tiernan to the Evergreen Drive Apartments Office (the “Office”), and he spoke with the Evergreen Site Manager, Cara Tedrow. (ECF Doc. No. 23 at ¶ 27). On November 29, 2013, Officer Tiernan advised Plaintiff that she was to refrain from entering the Office. Id. ¶ 28. On or about May 30, 2014, Defendants applied for a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting Plaintiff from harassing Defendants' then-Management Agent, Cara Tedrow. Id. ¶ 29. A portion of the Temporary Restraining Order Application was an Affidavit of Ms. Tedrow. Id. ¶ 30. Ms. Tedrow's affidavit provided, inter alia, that “[t]his Affidavit is made in support of [Evergreen's] Motion and action for a judgment, in favor of [ ] [Evergreen], for a temporary, preliminary and permanent injunction against [Ms. Babbitt] enjoining her presence at the Premises, her harassment of myself and other employees of National Investments, Ltd.” Id. ¶ 31.

         Following these interactions, the parties have sought relief in various forums, and they have lodged various grievances against one another. On or about November 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination against Defendants with the State of Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (the “Commission”). Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated the Rhode Island Fair Housing Practices Act. Id. ¶ 2. On December 1, 2014, the Commission administratively closed the matter with a finding of “[n]o jurisdiction.” Id. ¶ 3.

         On or about June 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed an additional Charge of Discrimination against Defendants with the Commission. The Commission assigned that Charge a number, RICHR #H15 HRA 697-03/03 (the “Second Matter”). Id. ¶ 4. In the Second Matter, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated the Rhode Island Fair Housing Practices Act and “Section 804a or f of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (as amended), ” or 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a) or (f). Id. ¶ 5. On or about June 29, 2015, Defendants moved the Commission to dismiss the Second Matter. Id. ¶ 7. On October 20, 2015, the Commission made a determination of “no probable cause” with respect to the Second Matter. Id. ¶ 12.

         On June 15, 2015, Plaintiff commenced an action against Defendants in the State of Rhode Island Superior Court, Babbitt v. Nat'l Inv., Ltd, PC-2015-2542 (R.I. Super. Ct.) (the “State Court Action”). Id. ¶ 6. On July 28, 2015, Defendants filed and served a Motion in the State Court Action for Judgment on the Pleadings. The Superior Court denied the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on October 13, 2015. There have been no subsequent proceedings in connection with the State Court Action. Id. ¶ 9.

         On June 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present Complaint. Id. ¶ 13. The Complaint was served upon Defendants on or about August 29, 2016. Id. ¶ 14. On September 6, 2016, Defendants filed and served their Answer and Affirmative Defenses to the Complaint. Id. ¶ 15. The parties have engaged in discovery.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         A party shall be entitled to summary judgment “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Cadle Co. v. Hayes, 116 F.3d 957, 959 (1st Cir. 1997).

         Summary judgment involves shifting burdens between the moving and the nonmoving parties. Initially, the burden requires the moving party to aver “an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Garside v. Osco Drug, Inc., 895 F.2d 46, 48 (1st Cir. 1990) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)). Once the moving party meets this burden, the burden falls upon the nonmoving party, who must oppose the motion by presenting facts that show a genuine “trialworthy issue remains.” Cadle, 116 F.3d at 960 (citing Nat'l Amusements, Inc. v. Town of Dedham, 43 F.3d 731, 735 (1st Cir. 1995); Maldonado-Denis v. Castillo-Rodriguez, 23 F.3d 576, ...

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