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Portis v. River House Associates

August 2, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones



Pending before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss Counts IV and V of the Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) ("the Motion"), filed by all Defendants*fn1 to this action on April 13, 2007. (Rec. Doc. 15). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted.


On October 30, 2006, Plaintiffs, John and Bernice Portis ("Mr. and Mrs. Portis," respectively), initiated this action by filing a Complaint. (See Rec. Doc. 1).

On April 13, 2007, Defendants filed the instant Motion. (Rec. Doc. 15). As the Motion has been fully briefed, it is ripe for disposition.


In considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept the veracity of a plaintiff's allegations. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996), our Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit added that in considering a motion to dismiss based on a failure to state a claim argument, a court should "not inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." Furthermore, "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also District Council 47 v. Bradley, 795 F.2d 310 (3d Cir. 1986).


As is required by the standard of review applicable to the Motion, the following recitation of the facts is based on the averments in Plaintiffs' Complaint and accepted as true only for the purposes of disposition of the instant Motion. (Rec. Doc. 1).

On April 16, 2005, Mr. and Mrs. Portis (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), an African-American couple, drove a vehicle packed with personal and household items from Akron, Ohio to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with the intention of locating and renting an apartment for Mrs. Portis. Mrs. Portis required an apartment in Harrisburg because she had recently been transferred from her federal employment in Ohio to a new job in Central Pennsylvania.

After seeing a print ad or listing in a free publication, Plaintiffs went to Korman Communities, an apartment complex located at 2311 North Front Street in Harrisburg, and spoke with the General Manager, Mary Thompson ("Ms. Thompson"), about leasing an apartment in the complex. Plaintiffs were told that the terms of such a lease would not require any security deposit or other fees, but rather only payment of $585.00, the first month's rent. Notably, these proposed terms were "part of frequently advertised rental terms for apartments at the Korman Communities, as this establishment frequently displays signs advertising this promotion," such as signs "promoting 'NO MOVE IN COSTS' . . . ." (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶ 31, Exhs. A-E). In their discussion, however, Ms. Thompson conditioned these terms as being "subject to approval of [Mrs. Portis'] rental application, which included a credit check." Id. at ¶ 30.

Next, Plaintiffs walked through sample apartments, and apparently upon finding them to be satisfactory, Mrs. Portis "then agreed to immediately rent a studio apartment in the building that supposedly would be available to her." Id. at ¶ 29. Accordingly, Mrs. Portis completed and submitted her rental application, as well as two forms of photo identification -- her Ohio driver's license and her federal employee identification card.

Ms. Thompson then left the couple "for the reported purpose of running a credit check" on Mrs. Portis. Id. at ¶ 33. However, when Ms. Thompson returned, she indicated that the credit check showed no credit history for Mrs. Portis and requested to run such a check on Mr. Portis, using identifying information such as his Social Security number. Although Plaintiffs were frustrated by the situation because each of them "had an established credit history and previously had financed the purchases of their homes, vehicles and other personal property during their marriage," id. at ¶ 26, they provided Ms. Thompson the additional information on Mr. Portis in an attempt to finalize the rental process.

Again, Ms. Thompson left the couple with the reported purpose of running a credit check, this time on Mr. Portis, and again, upon her return, Ms. Thompson advised Plaintiffs that the credit check showed no credit history. Plaintiffs then demanded that Ms. Thompson re-run the credit checks because they insisted that they each had an established credit history. Sometime later, Ms. Thompson claimed to have complied, ultimately advising Plaintiffs that she attempted to obtain a credit history on each Plaintiff twice, but that no such history was available for either of them.

As an alternative, Ms. Thompson suggested that Plaintiffs provide her with specific account numbers, credit card information, and other information about their various creditors. ...

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