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Sesay v. Towers

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

August 6, 2019

GLORIA A. SESAY
v.
WEDGEWOOD TOWERS, et al.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BARBARA D. HOLMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         TO: Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., Chief District Judge

         By Order entered April 14, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 3), the Court referred this pro se case to the Magistrate Judge, pursuant 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Court, for pretrial proceedings.

         Presently pending before the Court is the motion for summaiy judgment filed by Defendants Wedgewood Towers, First Cumberland Properties, Trish Greer, and Patricia Horner (Docket Entry No. 31), to which Plaintiff has responded in opposition. See Docket Entry No. 40. For the reasons set out below, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the motion be granted and this action be dismissed.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Gloria A. Sesay ("Plaintiff') is a resident of Nashville, Tennessee. On March 22, 2017, she filed this case pro se and in forma pauperis against Wedgewood Towers, First Cumberland Properties ("First Cumberland"), Trish Greer ("Greer"), and Patricia Horner ("Horner") (hereinafter referred to collectively as "Defendants"). Wedgewood Towers is an apartment building located in Nashville, Tennessee, and is where Plaintiff formerly lived.[1] At all times relevant to the lawsuit, Horner was the Property Manager at Wedgewood Towers. First Cumberland is the managing agent for Wedgewood Towers. Greer is currently the Executive Vice President of First Cumberland and also held that position at all times relevant to the lawsuit.

         In her complaint, Plaintiff does not set out the specific legal basis for her lawsuit, nor does she set out specific legal claims. Instead, as grounds for filing her lawsuit in federal court, Plaintiff states:

I was evicted because I had filed an Identity Theft complaint against Wedgewood Towers and Mrs. Patricia Horner. The manager therefore choose to evict me due to the ongoing investigation, stating that I was behind on paying my rent.

         See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1) at 1. Plaintiff sets out the following narrative as factual support for her lawsuit:

I moved into Wedgewood Towers in July of 2013 and was later asked to head the Residents Association. I started the organization from ground on up, that is I wrote the by-laws, paid for the EIN numbers and letters of solicitation. I was asked to produce my proof of legal residence before I can move in or rent to. I had to show [and/or] furnished my proof of citizenship. As we progressed, Mrs. Patricia Horner tried and did everything to hinder the Resident Association or to get me out. I filed a complaint to HUD and she evicted most of the people that testified on my behalf. Sometime last fall I was tiying to have the residents registered for school and had teamed up with MTA. I was sending breakfast to the residents and Ms. Zena Downs of Apt. 902 came cursing at me. The mgr. went around asking the residents to lie on me stating that I was disruptive and I woke the entire bldging (sic) or residents up, which is untrue, and later got an eviction notice for non-payment.

Id. at 2. In the section of her complaint listing her prayers for relief, Plaintiff states as follows:

a. Psychological abuse and emotional distress, humiliation by lying that I was not paying my rent, to which I have receipts and a letter signed by Mrs. Horner that I made timely payments.
b. Pain and suffering, destruction of personal property, medical bills (co-pays and transportation) to and from the doctor.
c. Discrimination due to ethnicity, sex, national origin. I am not only of an African descent, but with a foreign accent, belongs to a special classification (missionary).
d. Identity theft, discrimination against fair housing rules. Destruction of personal property by asking me to produce proof of citizenship but not requesting it from Deliah Harris of Apt. 814.

Id. at 3. Attached to Plaintiffs three page complaint are 62 pages of documents, many of which contain hand written notations or comments by Plaintiff. See Docket Entry No. 1-1.

         In the Order of referral, the Court found that Plaintiff alleged a colorable claim for relief under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq. Defendants[2] filed a timely answer (Docket Entry No. 12), and pretrial proceedings, including discovery, occurred pursuant to two scheduling orders. See Docket Entry Nos. 16 and 23.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[3]

         Plaintiff is a black female who is originally from the country of Sierra Leone and is a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.[4] She professes to be of the Christian faith. Plaintiff was a resident at Wedgewood Towers from July 30, 2013, to November 16, 2016, when she was evicted and her lease was terminated. At some point after moving into Wedgewood Towers, Plaintiff took the lead role in establishing the Wedgewood Towers Resident Association ("Resident Association") and in acting as its president.[5] The Resident Association organized meetings, events, and meals for residents in an effort to benefit the residents of Wedgewood Towers and appears to have been active during Plaintiffs involvement with the organization.

         While a resident at Wedgewood Towers, Plaintiff frequently interacted with Defendant Horner, who is a white United States Citizen and professes to be of the Christian faith.[6] During many of these interactions, Plaintiff perceived Horner to be confrontational and/or hostile toward Plaintiff. Additionally, Plaintiff believed that she was the victim of incidents of identity theft in which Defendant Horner was involved and that she was generally treated worse or differently than other residents. Plaintiff made her displeasure with the situation known to Wedgewood Towers and First Cumberland, both orally and through written letters, and both sides exchanged written letters about Plaintiffs complaints, with Defendant Greer making at least three written responses to Plaintiffs complaints. See Exhibits to Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1-1) at 1-6, 17-19, 21-23, and 58-60.

         On three occasions, events occurred that resulted in Plaintiff being given a written notice of lease violations from Hall & Associates, a law firms that represents Wedgewood Towers. On June 26, 2015, Plaintiff was given a fourteen-day notice of termination of her lease because of an incident that occurred on June 24, 2015, when, in the aftermath of a disagreement about recycling bins at Wedgewood Towers, she is alleged to have left a threatening voice mail for Defendant Horner and sent an e-mail that included false and disparaging comments. See Docket Entry No. 35-9 at 2. Although the notice letter threatened termination, the matter was apparently remedied because Plaintiff remained a tenant subsequent to the letter. On June 24, 2016, Plaintiff was given a second fourteen-day notice of termination of her lease because of an incident that occurred on June 16, 2016, when she is alleged to have yelled at, threatened, and been belligerent toward Defendant Horner after an incident involving two events that were scheduled for the same time in the community room at Wedgewood Towers. See Docket Entry No. 35-10. Although the notice letter threatened termination, the matter was apparently remedied because Plaintiff remained a tenant subsequent to the letter.

         On September 19, 2016, Plaintiff was given a third fourteen-day notice of termination of her lease because of an incident that occurred on September 8, 2016, when she is alleged to have yelled and screamed at another resident at Wedgewood Towers. See Docket Entiy No. 35-11. Unlike the prior two letters, this letter did not offer to continue the lease if the matter was promptly remedied, and Plaintiffs lease was terminated, leading to her eviction from Wedgewood Towers on or about November 16, 2016.

         While at Wedgewood Towers, Plaintiff interacted with the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") about some of her complaints. On June 7, 2015, she filed a complaint (#04-15-0741 -8) with HUD, alleging that she was treated differently than other residents at Wedgewood Towers because of national origin discrimination. See Docket Entry No. 35-2. Specifically, she alleged: (1) that she was cursed at and threatened with a lease violation by Defendant Horner on August 24, 2014, when she reported a violent act by a male resident; (2) that services and repairs were not timely made in her unit; and (3) that her rent was raised by $ 100.00 a month effective July 1, 2015. Id. During the course of the investigation, Plaintiff also raised an allegation of discrimination based on her sex, asserting that she had been given a lease violation on June 26, 2015, although a male resident had not been given a lease violation the prior month, as well as an allegation that "respondents had harassed her by stealing her identity." See Docket Entry No. 35-3 at 9-10. On January 20, 2016, HUD dismissed the complaint with a letter of determination, finding "that no reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice occurred." Id. at 2-3.[7]

         III. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND RESPONSE

         Defendants seek summary judgment in their favor under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants support their motion with: (1) a memorandum of law (Docket Entry No. 32); (2) a statement of undisputed material facts (Docket Entry No. 33); (3) the affidavit of Defendant Greer (Docket Entry No. 35-1) and exhibits attached thereto (Docket Entry Nos. 35-2 and 35-3); (4) the affidavit of Defendant Horner (Docket Entry No. 35-3) and exhibits attached thereto (Docket Entry Nos. 35-4 and ...


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