United States District Court, C.D. California
William Roman, et al.
MSL Capital, LLC, et al.
Present: The Honorable JESUS G. BERNAL, UNITED STATES
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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
PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL
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.
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).
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
The verdict was not contrary to the clear weight of the
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
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.
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.)
the Court is not persuaded that the jury verdict was contrary
to the clear weight of the evidence.
Plaintiffs did not establish violations of the Unruh
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