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Sanchez v. Thompson

July 22, 2008

ANGEL L. SANCHEZ AND JEFFREY SANCHEZ, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
AN SUS THOMPSON AND PAULINE BUSH, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pro se plaintiffs Angel L. Sanchez and Jeffrey Sanchez (collectively, "plaintiffs") brought this action against defendants Susan Thompson and Pauline Bush (collectively, "defendants") alleging that defendants violated their constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, plaintiffs contended that the defendants violated their civil rights by orally agreeing to the sale of a home for $285,755, but then refusing to enter into a contract for the sale of such home and, instead, selling the home to another person for $290,000.

By Memorandum and Order dated December 26, 2007 (the "December 26 Memorandum & Order"), the Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because, among other things, plaintiffs had not alleged any state action as required under Section 1983 for a violation of civil rights, but rather appeared to allege a dispute completely between private parties that is not actionable under Section 1983. However, the Court, in an abundance of caution, granted plaintiffs leave to replead and file an amended complaint by January 29, 2008, if they believed that they could properly allege a federal claim.

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on January 23, 2008.*fn1 Although the amended complaint cited Section 1983, it clearly was alleging a new claim with respect to defendants' alleged refusal to sell the home to plaintiffs - namely, discrimination based on their national origin.

Defendants again moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) on February 6, 2008 due to, among other things, the continued lack of any allegation of state action. The Court held a conference on May 8, 2008 to discuss the amended complaint (the "May 8 Conference"). At that conference, after a discussion about the applicable cases and the discovery process (among other things), the Court gave plaintiffs the opportunity to consult with a lawyer (which they requested to do) and asked them to submit a letter by June 13, 2008 as to whether they wished to proceed with this case. Moreover, the Court stated that, if plaintiffs wished to proceed, (1) the Court would construe plaintiffs' amended complaint as alleging a cause of action under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), rather than Section 1983, because plaintiffs were clearly alleging discrimination based on national origin in the denial of their proposal to purchase the home, which would be a violation of the FHA (if proven), and (2) the Court would analyze the FHA claim under the standard articulated by the Second Circuit most recently in Boykin v. KeyCorp, 521 F.3d 202 (2d Cir. 2008). The Court also gave defendants the opportunity to supplement their motion to dismiss to address this proposed Fair Housing Act claim.

Defendants filed a letter on May 27, 2007 in further support of defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint. Plaintiffs submitted a letter on May 27, 2008, re-stating their reasons for opposing defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint.

For the reasons set forth below, based upon the allegations in the amended complaint, the Court finds that plaintiffs have sufficiently stated a claim under the Fair Housing Act to survive a motion to dismiss under Rules 8 and 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Amended Complaint

The underlying allegations giving rise to this litigation are comprehensively described by the undersigned in the December 26 Memorandum & Order addressing defendants' motion to dismiss the initial complaint. See Sanchez v. Thompson, No. 07-CV-0531 (JFB) (WDW), 2007 WL 4574727 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 26, 2007). Thus, the Court presumes the parties' familiarity with the prior allegations of this case and briefly summarizes the allegations in the amended complaint. Plaintiffs allege that they came to an oral agreement on the counteroffer made by defendants as to the selling price of the property in dispute (the "Property"), which amounted to $285,000. (Am. Compl. ¶ 2.)

Plaintiffs further allege that, after this "meeting of the minds" reached on the selling price of the Property, they proceeded to incur expenses in order to have a contract prepared. (Id. ¶ 3.) They were pre-approved and ready to close on the house. (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiffs further allege that, after agreeing on the counteroffer price, defendant Johnson asked plaintiffs "Where are you from?" (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiffs told her that they were from Puerto Rico. (Id.)

The amended complaint then alleges that, on January 16, 2007, plaintiffs contacted defendants' attorney's office (Alan Sanders). (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs contend that Sanders' secretary told plaintiffs that, because of a holiday, the contracts were not mailed on time, but they were already prepared. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that, on January 22, 2007, plaintiffs contacted their attorney, Steven Bantz, to make an appointment for signing the contracts. (Id. ¶ 6.) They allege that Mr. Bantz told plaintiffs that the contracts were never received and he would make a telephone call to request them. (Id.) Plaintiffs contend that their attorney ultimately found out from Sanders that the house was sold to another person for $290,000. (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiffs allege that defendants never informed them of a new asking price for the Property, nor gave them the opportunity to purchase it at a higher price. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Based upon these alleged events, plaintiffs contend that they were discriminated against based upon their national origin. Specifically, the amended complaint alleges the following: "That based on the sudden change of the mind by the defendants, selling the house to another person I strongly believed that THEY VIOLATED MY CONSTITUTIONAL AND CIVIL RIGHTS AND THAT I WAS DISCRIMINATED, BASED ON MY NATIONAL ORIG[I]N]." (Id. ¶ 8.) (emphasis in original). In support of that claim, plaintiffs point in the amended complaint to the above-referenced question by defendant Johnson as to where plaintiffs were from, to which plaintiffs responded that they were from Puerto Rico. (Id. ¶ 9.)

Thus, in the amended complaint, plaintiffs state the following: "I re-plead pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, stating that I was discriminated based ...


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