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Rajapakse v. Lexington Asset Management (TN), LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga

December 5, 2017

SAMANTHA D. RAJAPAKSE
v.
LEXINGTON ASSET MANAGEMENT (TN), LLC, d/b/a Royal Arms Apartments

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHRISTOPHER H. STEGER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Lexington Asset Management (TN), LLC ("Lexington") [Doc. 34]. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Amend her Complaint [Doc. 55]. Defendant Lexington contends this action should be dismissed in its entirety based upon the doctrine of res judicata because the conduct which forms the basis of Plaintiff Samantha Rajapakse's action was the subject of two previous state court actions. For the reasons stated herein, the Court agrees with Defendant's position. Consequently, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 34] is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint [Doc. 55] is DENIED.

         I. FACTS

         A. Procedural History

         On April 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint in this Court alleging violations of the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-101 et. seq., deprivation of equal protection and due process afforded by the United States Constitution, and violations of the Fair Housing Act, 41 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, based on her rental of an apartment and subsequent eviction from that unit at an apartment complex known as the Royal Arms Apartments in Chattanooga, Tennessee [Doc. 2].

         In her complaint, Plaintiff asked the Court to intervene in two pending state court proceedings involving her and Royal Arms Apartments, asserting that the state courts had deprived her of due process and equal protection and were "allowing the Royal Arms to harass her during her process of terminating her lease and denying evidence relevant to the case . . . ." [Doc. 2, Complaint at 2, Page ID # 12]. On April 28, 2016, after engaging in the screening process with respect to Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court declined Plaintiff's request that the federal court intervene in the pending state court proceedings. Instead, the Court entered an order dismissing all claims except for her claims alleging racial discrimination and retaliatory eviction in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 41 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 [Doc. 4].

         Defendant filed an answer to the complaint on July 26, 2016, and Plaintiff was served by United States mail the same day [Doc. 24]. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(d), Plaintiff had 21 days plus three days for service, giving her a total of 24 days, in which to amend her complaint as a matter of right. Therefore, if Plaintiff had wanted to amend her complaint as a matter of right, she was required to do so by August 19, 2016. On August 22, 2016, without seeking leave of Court as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), Plaintiff filed an amended complaint in this case [Doc. 26]. Because Plaintiff failed to follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when filing her amended complaint [Doc. 26], the amended complaint is not properly before the Court and will not be considered. On October 24, 2016, Plaintiff moved to amend her complaint to seek treble damages [Doc. 55]. This motion to amend her complaint will be addressed herein.

         B. Plaintiff's Current Lawsuit in Federal Court

         In the instant case, Plaintiff seeks relief under the Fair Housing Act, 41 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, for what she asserts was race discrimination with respect to her treatment as a tenant and her subsequent eviction from the Royal Arms Apartments. More specifically, Plaintiff claims that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race in the following manner:

. she was harassed by Lexington employees;
. her complaints were ignored regarding needed repairs, pest infestations, odors of dog urine, and excessive noise;
. she was charged excessive fees;
. she was subject to improper collection efforts;
. her credit rating was affected as a result of false statements made by Defendant; and
. she was evicted in retaliation for bringing a state claim against Royal Arms Apartments.

         Defendant's motion to dismiss [Doc. 34] focuses on two state court lawsuits which also arose from Plaintiffs rental of, and subsequent eviction from an apartment at the Royal Arms Apartments. Plaintiffs complaint [Doc. 2, Complaint at 2-4] makes specific reference to these two lawsuits brought in General Sessions Court in Hamilton County, Tennessee. The two lawsuits referenced in her complaint are: Samantha Rajapakse v. Royal Arms Apartments, Case No. 15GS12697, and Royal Arms Apartments v. Samantha Rajapakse. Plaintiffs complaint does not provide a case number for the second lawsuit [Id.]. As observed by this Court in a previous order, much of Plaintiffs complaint is focused on the alleged failure of the General Sessions Court to award her injunctive relief and damages [See Doc. 4, April 28, 2015 Order at 2, Page ID # 25].

         C. Previous State Court Lawsuits

         1. The State Court Litigation

         The first state lawsuit was filed by Plaintiff in the General Sessions Court for Hamilton County, Tennessee, on December 21, 2015, in Samantha D. Rajapakse v. Royal Arms Apartments and Lexington Asset Management, No. 15 GS 12697 (the "State Court Litigation"). In her complaint filed in the State Court Litigation, Plaintiff alleged the following:

. Plaintiff and Royal Arms Apartments signed an agreement to rent Unit 107 to Plaintiff [Doc. 35-1, Ex. A, State Court Complaint, at 2, Page ID #168-77[1]];
. Defendant refused to enforce building codes, which resulted in unsanitary conditions [Id];
. Defendant violated the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-101 et seq. [Id];
. Defendant created a hostile living environment [Id.];
. Defendant created an unhealthy environment forcing Plaintiff to terminate her ...

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