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Solomons v. Douglas Elliman LLC

Supreme Court, New York

July 29, 2013

SOLOMONS, PAUL
v.
DOUGLAS ELLIMAN LLC, et al. Index No. 110636-2010

Unpublished Opinion

PRESENT: Hon. George J. Silver Justice

Hon. George J. Silver Justice

Upon the foregoing papers, the motion is decided as follows:

In this action for housing discrimination based upon a disability in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law, plaintiff Paul Solomons ("plaintiff) moves pursuant to CPLR § 603 for an order severing his causes of action against defendants EliPark Realty Corp. and George Abi-Hassoum; 23 Manhattan Valley North LLC and Baruch Singer; AIM Realty Serives Inc., Tariq Hakeem ("Hakeem"), Old Brownsville Renaissance Corp. ("Old Brownsville"), Stephen B. Gleich ("Gleich") and Tessie Travin ("Travin"); 650 West 189 Limited Partnership, Brian Ritter and Erik Rodrigues; and Best Apartments, Inc., Best Apartments North, Inc., Howard Feingold and Joseph Branco. Defendants Old Brownsville, Gleich and Travin (collectively "moving defendants") cross-move for an order granting them summary judgment and dismissing the complaint against them.

Motion to Sever

Plaintiffs claims against the various defendants, whom plaintiff alleges are brokers and owners of apartments, arise out of separate incidents on separate dates in 2010 during which plaintiff claims defendants discriminated against him in his attempt to rent apartments because of his status as a recipient of Section 8 vouchers from the City of New York. In moving to sever, plaintiff argues that defendants are unwilling to engage in discovery and that this unwillingness has so delayed the matter so as to prejudice plaintiff. Plaintiff also argues that he is not alleging that the various defendants acted jointly and that there are no common questions of fact among the various sets of defendants. Plaintiff previously opposed a motion by defendants 23 Manhattan Valley and Singer to have the action severed.CPLR § 603 provides that "In furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice the court may order a severance of claims or may order a separate trial of any claim or of any separate issue. The court may order the trial of any claim or issue prior to the trial of the others." On a motion to sever pursuant to CPLR § 603, the court must consider the issue of whether the convenience and judicial economy of disposing of multiple actions in one trial outweigh the possibility of substantial prejudice or delay to any party. Severance is generally not granted in situations where there are common questions of law or fact, or where the issues are inextricably entwined and denial of severance will not cause significant delay or prejudice to a substantial right (see Krause v. American Guarantee & Liability Ins. Co., 22 N.Y.2d 147, 239 N.E.2d 175, 292 N.Y.S.2d 67 [1968]; Cohen Agency, Inc. v. DonaldS. Perlman Agency, Inc., 51 N.Y.2d 358, 414 N.E.2d 689, 434 N.Y.S.2d 189 [1980]; Erbach Finance Corp. v. Royal Bank of Canada, 203 A.D.2d 80 [1st Dept 1994]). The court has considerable discretion in deciding whether severance is proper (see Shanley v. Callanan Industries, Inc., 54 N.Y.2d 52, 429 N.E.2d 104, 444 N.Y.S.2d 585 [1981]; CPLR §§ 603, 1010). Here, the interests of judicial economy are be best served by having a single trial. Although plaintiff alleges several discrete incidents of discrimination by several discrete sets of defendants, plaintiffs third amended complaint raises common legal issues regarding possible violations of the New York City Human Rights Law. Moreover, plaintiffs claims of pain and suffering and emotional distress as a result of the alleged discrimination are common to all defendants. Other than alleging delay, plaintiff has not established that a single trial would result in prejudice to a substantial right. Moreover, plaintiff, will not be now heard to say that severance is proper simply because his interests have changed. Accordingly, plaintiffs motion to sever is denied.

Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment

Plaintiffs first cause of action in his third amended complaint alleges that defendants, by refusing to accept plaintiffs Section 8 voucher as payment for rent, violated Section 8-107 (5) (a) (1) and 8-107 (5) (a) (2) of the Administrative Code of the City of New York. These sections make it

an unlawful discriminatory practice for the owner, lessor, lessee, sublessee, assignee or managing agent of, or other person having the right to sell, rent or lease or approve the sale, rental or lease of a housing accommodation .. . any agent or employee thereof:
(1)to refuse to sell, rent, lease, approve the sale, renal or lease or otherwise deny to or withhold from any person having the right to sell, rent or lease or approve the sale, rental or lease of a housing accommodation or an interest because of the actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, partnership status, : or alienage or citizenship status of such person or persons, or because of any lawful source of income of such person or persons, or because children are, nay be or would be residing with such persons.
(2)To discriminate against any person because of such person's actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, partnership status, or alienage or citizenship status, or because of any lawful source of income of such person, or because children are, may be or would be residing with such person, in the terms, conditions or privileges of the sale, rental or lease of any such housing accommodation or an interest therein or in the furnishing of facilities or services in connection therewith.

Plaintiffs second cause of action alleges that defendants' refusal to negotiate for the rental of an apartment and their denial of housing accommodations because of plaintiff s Section 8 status violated sections 8-107 (5) (c) (1) and (2) of the Administrative Code of the City of New York. These sections make it an unlawful discriminatory practice for any real estate broker, real estate salesperson or employee or agent thereof:

(1)to refuse to sell, rent or lease any housing accommodation, land or commercial space or an interest therein to any person or group of persons or to refuse to negotiate for the sale, rental or lease, of any housing accommodation, land or commercial space or an interest therein to any person or group of persons because of the actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, partnership status, or alienage or citizenship status of such person or persons, or because of any lawful source of income of such person or persons, or because children are, may be or would be residing with such person or persons, or to represent that any housing accommodation, land or commercial space or an interest therein ...

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