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March 22, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Waldman, District Judge.


Defendants seek dismissal of the Fair Housing Act claims of plaintiff McQueen and on behalf of Jamal and Harris, and dismissal of the intentional infliction of emotional distress claims of plaintiffs Lane and McQueen. Defendants contend that only plaintiff Lane has standing to maintain a Fair Housing Act claim and that the conduct attributed to defendants is not sufficiently outrageous to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In assessing a motion to dismiss, the court assumes to be true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and the reasonable inferences therefrom, and views them in the light most favorable to the nonmovants. See Rocks v. Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). A claim should be dismissed only if it appears beyond doubt from the face of the complaint that a plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts which would entitle her to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Robb v. Philadelphia, 733 F.2d 286, 290 (3d Cir. 1984). In their amended complaint, plaintiffs make the following factual allegations.

In March 1999, plaintiff Lane leased an apartment for an unspecified period in a building in Philadelphia which was owned and managed by defendants. The building was all white and the surrounding Port Richmond neighborhood was virtually all white. Ms. Lane moved in on March 17, 1999. Ms. Lane was visited on "multiple occasions" over the next two weeks by her friend Charlotte McQueen and Ms. McQueen's two children, five year old Kareem Jamal and three year old Jahlear Harris. On "some" of these occasions, Ms. McQueen and her children stayed at the apartment overnight. They are black.

Defendant Rose Cole telephoned Ms. Lane at work on March 29, 1999 and asked if her friend Charlotte was black. When Ms. Lane responded affirmatively, Ms. Cole stated she should "look for somewhere else to live" as their "neighbors were not tolerant of that." Ms. Cole expressed fear that the property "would be vandalized by upset neighbors" and that "someone could get hurt."

On March 30, 1999, Ms. Cole left a letter at Ms. Lane's apartment. The letter stated that Ms. Lane was being evicted because of "non-payment of a security deposit" and "the number of occupants in the apartment," and that she had thirty days to vacate the apartment. At this juncture, the court assumes to be true plaintiffs' allegation that Ms. Lane had in fact tendered a security deposit upon leasing the apartment.*fn1

On March 31, 1999, defendant John Cole physically confronted Ms. Lane in the hallway outside her apartment door. Mr. Cole blocked Ms. Lane's egress, "violently" shook his arms and threatened to "punch her," to "put her in the hospital," to "kill her" and to "remove the blacks" from the apartment if she did not do so. Rose Cole separated her husband from Ms. Lane. Ms. Cole stated that "a neighbor had complained about there being blacks in the building" and that "problem were going to continue" until Ms. Lane and Ms. McQueen's "kind" were gone. I Ms. Lane then retreated into her apartment, Ms. Cole kicked the front door.

During the confrontation, Ms. McQueen opened the apartment door and observed Mr. Cole's menacing conduct. Ms. McQueen was afraid that he would hurt her and the children, and closed the door. The two children were frightened and cowering inside the apartment.

On April 2, 1999, Ms. Lane began to load her belongings into her car which she had parked in front of the building. Ms. McQueen and her two children were sitting in the parked car when Mr. Cole observed the scene from a nearby patio. He shouted at Ms. Lane that she "better get in the car and leave or he would come and break her kneecaps" and to get "that trash" out of here, referring to Ms. McQueen and her children. Ms. Lane then departed promptly and returned with a police officer on April 5, 1999 to retrieve the rest of her belongings.

As a result of defendants' conduct, Ms. Lane and Ms. McQueen both continue to experience anger, fear, mental anguish and emotional distress accompanied by headaches and nightmares.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful

(a) To refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. (b) To discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or ...

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