Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Roman v. MSL Capital, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 9, 2019

William Roman, et al.
v.
MSL Capital, LLC, et al.

          Present: The Honorable JESUS G. BERNAL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

          CIVIL MINUTES-GENERAL

         Proceedings: Order (1) DENYING Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial (Dkt. No. 126); (2) DENYING Plaintiffs' Motion for Permanent Injunction (Dkt. No. 130); (3) DENYING Plaintiffs' Motion for Fees and Costs (Dkt. No. 131); and (4) DENYING Defendants' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Dkt. No. 132) (IN CHAMBERS)

         Before the Court are four post-trial motions: (1) Plaintiffs William Roman, Desiree Acosta, Diego Sandoval, Renee Sandoval, Catherine Michelle Perez, and their respective minor children's (“Plaintiffs”) motion for a new trial (“Motion for New Trial, ” Dkt. No. 126); (2) Plaintiffs' motion for issuance of a permanent injunction (“Motion for Permanent Injunction, ” Dkt. No. 130); (3) Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and costs (“Plaintiffs' Motion for Fees and Costs, ” Dkt. No. 131); and (4) Defendants MSL Capital Li Ritchey's motion for attorneys' fees and costs (“Defendants' Motion for Fees and Costs, ” Dkt. No. 132). The Court held a hearing on this matter on July 1, 2019. After considering the parties' arguments and submissions in support of, and in opposition to, these motions, the Court DENIES each of them.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 7, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against defendants MSL Capital, LLC and Li Ritchey. (“Complaint, ” Dkt. No. 1.) The Complaint alleged five causes of action: (1) discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. (“FHA”); (2) discriminatory housing practices under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, California Government Code §§ 12927 and 12955, et seq.; (3) discrimination on the basis of familial status in violation of the California Unruh Civil Rights Act; (4) unfair business practices under the California Business & Professions Code § 17204; and (5) negligence.

         On October 2, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 34.) On November 5, 2018, the Court issued an order granting Plaintiffs' motion in part and denying it in part. (“MSJ Order, ” Dkt. No. 57.) The Court granted Plaintiffs summary judgment as to the following claims: (1) that the Adult Supervision Rule which appeared in certain lease agreements at the Casa Buena and Casa Lynnda apartment buildings violated 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(b) and (c); (2) that the Adult Supervision Rule violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), Cal. Gov't Code § 12955(a) and (c); and (3) that Defendants' failure to display a fair housing poster at the Casa Buena and Casa Lynnda apartment buildings violated 24 C.F.R. §§ 110.10(a) and 110.30. (Id.) The Court denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment as to all other claims. (Id.)

         A jury trial on Plaintiffs' remaining claims began on April 2, 2019. (Dkt. No. 108.) On April 5, 2019, the Jury returned a verdict for Defendants on the remaining claims. Specifically, the jury answered “No” to the questions “Did PLAINTIFFS prove that DEFENDANTS violated the Fair Housing Act?, ” “Did PLAINTIFFS prove that DEFENDANTS violated California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”)”; and “Did PLAINTIFFS prove that DEFENDANTS violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act.” (“Verdict Form, ” Dkt. No. 118.) The jury awarded no damages to Plaintiffs.

         On May 10, 2019, the Court entered judgment consistent with its summary judgment order and the jury's verdict. (“Judgment, ” Dkt. No. 125.) The Court awarded Plaintiffs nominal damages in the following amounts: $1.00 for Defendants' violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(b) and (c); $1.00 for Defendants' violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act; $1.00 for Defendants' failure to display a fair housing poster at the Casa Buena apartments; and $1.00 for Defendants' failure to display a fair housing poster at the Casa Lynnda apartments. (Id.)

         II. PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL

         Plaintiffs filed their Motion for a New Trial on May 15, 2019. (Dkt. No. 126.) They submitted no exhibits in support of their motion. (Id.) Defendants opposed this Motion on May 22, 2019. (Dkt. No. 127.) In support of their opposition, Defendants submitted excerpts of the trial transcript, (Dkt. Nos. 127-1 - 127-4); portions of the jury instructions, (Dkt. No. 127-5); and documentation of Defendants' counsel's attempts to contact Plaintiffs' counsel, (Dkt. No. 127-6). Plaintiffs replied on June 10, 2019. (Dkt. No. 141.)

         A. Legal Standard

         Rule 59 authorizes new trials “for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). The court may grant a new trial, even if the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, if “the verdict is contrary to the clear weight of the evidence, or is based upon evidence which is false, or to prevent . . . a miscarriage of justice.” United States v. 4.0 Acres of Land, 175 F.3d 1133, 1139 (9th Cir. 1999). Courts may also grant a new trial where the amount of damages is “grossly excessive or monstrous, clearly not supported by the evidence, or based only on speculation or guesswork.” Del Monte Dunes v. City of Monterey, 95 F.3d 1422, 1435 (9th Cir. 1996). “Regarding a Rule 59 motion, the district court can weigh the evidence, make credibility determinations, and grant a new trial for any reason necessary to prevent a miscarriage of justice.” Experience Hendrix L.L.C. v. Hendrixlicensing.com Ltd., 762 F.3d 829, 841 (9th Cir. 2014).

         B. Discussion

         Plaintiffs seek a new trial on the basis of a scant six pages of largely conclusory briefing which is unsupported by any evidence or citation to the trial record. (Motion for New Trial.) Plaintiffs' motion contains two principal arguments: first, that the verdict rendered by the jury is contrary to the clear weight of the evidence and, second, that because Ritchey admitted at trial to inserting the adult supervision rule into Plaintiffs' lease agreements, she necessarily violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Plaintiffs' plainly inadequate and largely baseless motion will be denied in full.

         1. The verdict was not contrary to the clear weight of the evidence

         In support of the argument that the jury verdict was contrary to the clear weight of the evidence, Plaintiffs' counsel has submitted an impressionistic and free-associative ramble through his general recollections of the events of the trial. First, Plaintiffs attack the testimony of nonparty witnesses whom they called at trial, Sarah Krousey and Alejandra Zamora. Plaintiffs have not provided sufficient basis for the Court to find that these witnesses were not credible and, even if the Court did make such a finding, Plaintiffs present no argument as to why such a finding would establish that the jury's verdict was contrary to the clear weight of the evidence.

         Next, Plaintiffs point to the testimony of three witnesses, who they claim provided uncontradicted evidence that Defendants violated the FHA and FEHA. First, minor Plaintiff A.G.'s testimony that Ritchey “ordered her to stop playing and to go back into her apartment on five separate occasions.” (Mot. at 4-5.) Second, William Roman's testimony that Ritchey ordered his children to go inside even when he was outside supervising them. (Id. at 5.) Third, the testimony of Alyssa Xolo, a former tenant, who testified that Ritchey ordered her to supervise her son who was playing while she was making dinner. (Id.) This characterization of the evidence, in addition to being unsupported by citation to the record, also ignores significant problems with these witnesses' testimony which may have led the jury to find it not credible. Roman, for example, admitted during cross-examination that he did not remember the exact order that Ritchey had given his children and, whatever the exact order was, he did not feel compelled at the time to direct his children to go inside. (“Declaration of Sarah V. Vega, ” Exh. B, Dkt. No. 172-2 at 10.) Similarly, on cross examination Xolo conceded that Ritchey had never told Xolo's son that he couldn't play outside. (Vega Decl. Exh. C at 18.) Plaintiffs also offer no argument as to why Ritchey ordering A.G. to go back into her apartment, without more, could establish any of the claims before the jury.

         Plaintiffs then argue that liability was established by the fact that Plaintiffs' tenancies were “all” terminated after each “objected to Defendants' discriminatory actions.” (Mot. at 5.) Of course, the mere fact that Plaintiffs' tenancy was terminated after disputes with Ritchey is insufficient to establish liability. See Huskey v. City of San Jose, 204 F.3d 893, 899 (9th Cir. 2000) (rejecting argument that retaliation was motivated by prior events simply because it succeeded them in time as an example of “the logical fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, literally, ‘after this, therefore because of this'”). This argument also ignores the credible alternative explanation offered by Defendants for the termination of Plaintiffs' leases: that Ritchey wanted to raise the rent on these apartments to market rate. (Vega Decl. Exh. A at 6.)

         In sum, the Court is not persuaded that the jury verdict was contrary to the clear weight of the evidence.

         2. Plaintiffs did not establish violations of the Unruh Act

         The Court previously granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs' on their claim that the Adult Supervision Rule which appeared in their leases violated 42 U.S.C. §§3604(b) and (c) and the FEHA. (MSJ Order.) The Court denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on their claim that the Adult Supervision Rule also violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The Court noted that the Unruh Act requires proof that the alleged discrimination was intentional, and that it remained disputed whether the inclusion of this Adult Supervision Rule in the lease was in fact intentional. Plaintiffs now argue that, because Ritchey admitted at trial to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.