United States District Court, E.D. New York
Plaintiffs: Edson Maitland, pro se Edson Maitland, Jr., pro
Defendants: Fawn-Nita Lunn No appearance.
of Hempstead Daniel James Evers, Esq.Joseph E. Macy, Esq.
Donna A. Napolitano, Esq. Berkman, Henoch, Peterson Federico
A. Amorini, Esq. Nassau County Pablo A. Fernandez, Esq.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
matter arises out of a lease agreement between pro
se Plaintiffs and their tenant, Fawn-Nita Lunn, in
which the Town of Hempstead (the “Town”) and the
Nassau County Department of Social Services (the
“County”) contributed housing assistance
payments. (Compl., Docket Entry 1, ¶¶ 14, 18.)
Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit seeking compensation for unpaid
rent and property damage. (Compl. ¶¶ 59, 64-65.)
The Town moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction, untimely service of process, and failure
to state a claim. (Town's Br., Docket Entry 24, at 7-17.)
While that motion was pending, Plaintiffs asked the Court (1)
to impose sanctions for alleged discovery violations and (2)
to compel the production of unredacted documents. (Mot. for
Sanctions, Docket Entry 52; Mot. to Compel, Docket Entry 53.)
Memorandum and Order (“M&O”) dated March 4,
2016, the Court dismissed this case for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction because Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the
$75, 000 amount-in-controversy requirement. (March 2016
M&O, Docket Entry 58, at 7- 8.) The Court also dismissed
Plaintiffs' remaining motions as moot. (Id. at
now move for reconsideration. (Recons. Mot., Docket Entry
59.) For the reasons that follow, their motion is DENIED, but
the Court grants Plaintiffs leave to file an amended
complaint to plead facts that satisfy the minimum
underlying facts are outlined in the Court's prior
opinion. (See March 2016 M&O at 2-5.) The
salient details, with additional history, are provided
I. The Facts
se Plaintiffs own property located in Nassau County, New
York (the “Property”). (Compl. ¶ 16; see
generally Lease Agmt.) To assist Lunn in leasing the
Property, the Town entered into a Housing Assistance Payment
contract (the “HAP Contract”) with Plaintiffs.
(HAP Contract at 8-17.) In other words, the Town, as the
Public Housing Agency (“PHA”), would contribute
housing assistance payments. (HAP Contract at 8, ¶ 7.)
During the relevant time periods, the Town's contribution
was $1, 874, and either Lunn or the County contributed the
remaining $558. (Compl. ¶¶ 51, 53, 72-73; HAP
Contract at 14, ¶ 5(a) (“The family is responsible
for paying the owner any portion of the rent to owner that is
not covered by the PHA housing assistance payment.”).)
If any property damage occurred, Lunn was responsible:
• “Tenant must pay for damages suffered and money
spent by Landlord relating to any claim arising from any act
or neglect of Tenant. Tenant is responsible for all acts of
Tenant's family, employees, guests or
invitees.” (Lease Agmt. at 19 ¶ 9.)
• “The PHA has no liability or responsibility to
the owner or other persons for the family's behavior or
the family's conduct in tenancy.” (HAP Contract at
10 ¶ 2(e).)
• “The PHA is only responsible for making housing
assistance payments to the owner . . . The PHA shall not pay
any other claim by the owner against the family.”
(Id. at 11 ¶ 7(e)(1)-(2).)
• “If the security deposit is not sufficient to
cover amounts the tenant owes under the lease, the owner may
collect the balance from the tenant.” (Id. at
16 ¶ 12(d).)
Town terminated the HAP Contract--and thus the Lease
Agreement--effective May 1, 2014 because Lunn did not submit
certain documentation. (Town's Termination Ltr. at 36;
HAP Contract at 16 ¶ 9 (“If the HAP contract
terminates for any reason, the lease terminates
automatically.”).) Lunn appealed but was unsuccessful.
(Appeal Decision at 39 (“Based upon the evidence
presented, it is the Decision of this Hearing Officer that
Ms. Fawn-Nita Lunns' [sic] participation in the
Section 8 Program be terminated effective July 31,
Lunn did not vacate the Property until November 5, 2014.
(Recons. Mot. at 1.) After she moved out, a Town building
inspector noted the following issues:
• The living room required covers for electrical outlets
and light switches.
• The bathroom and the kitchen were left in an
unsanitary state. The kitchen's electrical panel had been
• The Property's exterior was covered with debris
and garbage. The rain gutters were clogged.
• A building permit for the finished basement was open.
• Throughout the unit, the ceilings, walls, doors, and
floors were in a state of disrepair.
• All bedrooms required smoke detectors.
Nov. 24, 2014 Ltr. at 41.) Previously, in January 2014, a
Town building inspector noted some of these issues.
(Inspector's Jan. 28, 2014 Ltr. at 22-30 (noting, among
other items, missing smoke detectors, unresolved building
permit, damaged doors, floors, and living room walls).)
The Procedural History
filed the Complaint on October 6, 2014. (Docket Entry 1.) The
Town was served by the United States Marshals Service on
April 20, 2015. (Docket Entry 17.) Plaintiffs contends that
the United States Marshals Service failed to timely serve the
Town. (Pl.'s May 4, 2015 Ltr., Docket Entry 19, at 1.)
asserted three claims against the Town: breach of contract,
(Compl. ¶¶ 47-66); unjust enrichment, (Compl.
¶¶ 67-76); and equitable estoppel, (Compl.
¶¶ 78-98). Construed liberally, the Complaint seeks
equitable relief, injunctive relief, compensatory damages,
and emotional distress damages. (Compl. ¶¶ 3,
108(a)-(c).) Although the Complaint states that “[t]he
amount in controversy is in excess of $75, 000.00 U.S.D which
include[s] costs and fees, ” (Compl. ¶ 3), each
cause of action seeks $37, 106 in damages: $18, 050 in
property damage and $19, 056 in unpaid rent as of October
2014. (Compl. ¶¶ 59, 64-65.)
12, 2015, the Town moved to dismiss the Complaint on three
grounds: (1) Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the $75, 000
amount-in-controversy requirement, (Town's Br. at 7-10);
(2) Plaintiffs did not serve the Town with a summons and
complaint within 120 days of filing the Complaint with the
Court, (id. at 10- 12); and (3) Plaintiffs failed to
state a claim, (id. at 12-17).
filed a two-page opposition which provided no substantive
response to the Town's arguments on damages. (Pl.'s
Opp., Docket Entry 27, at 1.) Plaintiffs noted that Lunn
vacated the Property after the Complaint was filed but did
not clarify whether additional damages occurred.
(Id. at 1, 7.) Instead, Plaintiffs stated only that
“[t]he amount in controversy is over $75, 000.00 in
Property Damage and Back Rent.” (Id. at 1.)
January 19, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a motion for sanctions
against the Town and the County for alleged noncompliance
with discovery. (Docket Entry 52.) Plaintiffs also filed a
request to remove the redacted portion of certain documents.
(Docket Entry 53.)
March 4, 2016, the Court dismissed the case for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction:
Plaintiffs state, flatly and without more, that “[t]he
amount in controversy is in excess of $75, 000.00 U.S.D which
include[s] costs and fees.” But that contention is
belied by their damages calculation, which amounts to $37,
106 against all Defendants. . . . Moreover, the Complaint
does not state that the precise amount of damages is
uncertain or that damages continue to accrue, nor do
Plaintiffs offer any ...