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Creason v. Singh

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 26, 2013

JANE L. CREASON, Plaintiff,
v.
PUNEET KAUR SINGH, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS Re: ECF No. 11

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendants Paneet Kaur Singh, Theodore Kimball and Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP ("KTC") (collectively, "Defendants") have moved to dismiss Plaintiff Jane Creason's ("Plaintiff") complaint. ECF No. 11.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background[1]

Plaintiff, a trial attorney, worked for Defendant KTS, a law firm that represents owners and managers of residential and commercial properties. Complaint ¶¶ 2, 5, ECF No. 1.[2] In summer 2012, Plaintiff worked on a matter in which KTS represented a residential landlord. ¶¶ 14, 30. The landlord maintained a lease contract for a residential building in Novato, California, with three tenants, including two tenants referred to in this order as "Tenant A" and "Tenant B." Exh. 1 to Declaration of Corrie J. Klekowski 1-5 ("Klekowski Decl."), ECF No. 13; Complaint ¶ 12.

In May 2012, on behalf of the landlord KTS, prepared and served a Notice To Quit and filed an Unlawful Detainer nuisance action against Tenant A, claiming that Tenant A had assaulted Tenant B, engaged in a loud extended argument, and later barricaded himself in the apartment, telling police that he had firearms and was prepared to kill himself and others, and requiring the entire building to be evacuated. Exh. 1 to Klekowski Decl. 1-12-13; Complaint ¶ 12.

Tenant B answered the unlawful detainer action on her own behalf, raising a "domestic violence" defense to eviction pursuant to Section 1161.3(a) of the California Code of Civil Procedure. ¶ 18-20. Plaintiff informed Defendant Singh, Managing Partner of KTS's Northern California office, of various facts about Victim B's defense, but Defendant Singh "dismissed [her concern]." ¶ 3, 25-26. At a court settlement hearing, Plaintiff discovered that Tenant B had a "complete and valid domestic violence" defense to eviction. ¶ 28. Plaintiff, on behalf of KTS and representing the landlord, negotiated a stipulation with Tenant B settling the unlawful detainer action and allowing Tenant B to remain in the unit. ¶ 30.

Defendant Singh then removed Plaintiff as attorney from a large account. ¶ 36. Plaintiff was later terminated in a meeting in Defendant Singh's office, with Defendant Kimball, KTS's founder, appearing telephonically. ¶ 41. Defendant Kimball stated that Plaintiff had mishandled the case by settling it, and should have proceeded to trial, whether or not she won, "so that the client would look good to the Novato Police Department and City Council." ¶¶ 43-45.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this action in August 2013 against the aforementioned named Defendants as well as Does 1-10. Complaint. In it, she brings four causes of action under the federal Fair Housing Act ("FHA"): the first on the grounds that Defendants interfered with her because of her advocacy of the rights protected by the FHA, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3617, and the second through fourth on the basis of regulatory provisions interpreting the scope of the FHA. ¶¶ 51-62. The complaint also brings state-law causes of action under the California's Fair Employment and Housing Act and for tortious discharge in violation of public policy. ¶¶ 63-86.

C. Jurisdiction

Plaintiff's first four causes of action allege violation of the Fair Housing Act, a federal statute, and so the Court has jurisdiction over ...


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