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Childress v. Roberts

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division

January 16, 2019

Little Tom Childress, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Rebecca Roberts, Babbie M. Jaco, and Boyd Management LTD, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Henry M. Herlong, Jr. Senior United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Jacqueline D. Austin, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 of the District of South Carolina.[1] Little Tom Childress, Jr. (“Childress”), proceeding pro se, alleges racial discrimination and retaliation claims in violation of §§ 804(a), 804(b), and 817 of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(a), 3604(b), and 3617. Defendants Rebecca Roberts (“Roberts”), Babbie M. Jaco (“Jaco”), and Boyd Management LTD (“Boyd Management”) (collectively “Defendants”), filed a motion for summary judgment. (Defs. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 126.) Defendant Jaco also filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a plausible claim for relief, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Jaco Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 118.) In addition, Defendants and Childress both filed motions for sanctions. (Defs. Mot. Sanctions, ECF No. 108; Childress Mot. Sanctions, ECF No. 116.) In her Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Austin recommends granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment, dismissing Jaco's motion to dismiss as moot, denying Childress' motion for sanctions, and granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion for sanctions. (R&R, generally, ECF No. 167.)

         I. Factual and Procedural History

          This case arises out of alleged incidents of racial discrimination that Childress, an African American man, claims occurred while he was a tenant at West End Manor (“West End”), an apartment complex in Union, South Carolina, in violation of the FHA. (Compl. 6, ECF No. 1.) West End is managed by Boyd Management, and Jaco is the Vice President of Boyd Management. (Id. 2, ECF No. 1.) Roberts was West End's on-site manager during the alleged incidents of discrimination. (Id., ECF No. 1.)

         In 2013, Childress rented an apartment at West End with Karen Ferguson (“Ferguson”), his Caucasian co-tenant. (Id. Attach. 3 (Determination of No. Reasonable Cause (“HUD Determination”) 4), ECF No. 1-3.) Childress alleges that Roberts directed racially discriminatory statements and slurs to him and Ferguson on multiple occasions in 2015. He alleges that on August 4, 2015, Roberts told Childress that “they were going to take back their country from those taking over their country.” (Id. 3, ECF No. 1.) In addition, Childress submits that on October 13, 2015, Roberts “called [him] a nigger, ” and told him that he “could not be outside taking pictures, because [he] was scaring the white folks.” (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1.) Further, Childress alleges that he was treated differently than other white tenants. (Id. 3-4, ECF No. 1.) Childress alleges that Jaco is vicariously liable for Robert's actions. (Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 109.)

         Childress filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) on October 6, 2015. (Id. Attach. 4 (Final Investigative R. 1, 5), ECF No. 1-4.) The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and the USDA investigated Childress' claims of racial discrimination, and HUD issued Childress a “Determination of No. Reasonable Cause” on December 8, 2016. (Id. Attach. 3 (HUD Determination 1), ECF No. 1-3.) Childress alleges that Roberts gave him two “false violations” of his rental agreement on October 13, 2015, in retaliation for filing the USDA complaint. (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1.) Childress and Ferguson voluntarily terminated their tenancy at West End in November 2015. (Id. Attach. 3 (HUD Determination 5), ECF No. 1-3.)

         Childress filed the instant action on September 20, 2017. (Id., generally, ECF No. 1.) With leave of court, Childress filed an amended complaint on August 21, 2018, which the magistrate judge ordered be read together with the original complaint. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 109; Aug. 24, 2018 Text Order, ECF No. 110.) On August 21, 2018, Defendants filed a motion for sanctions against Childress, pursuant to Rule 37(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Defs. Mot. Sanctions, ECF No. 108.) Childress filed his response in opposition on August 27, 2018. (Resp. Opp'n Defs. Mot. Sanctions, ECF No. 113.) Defendants filed their reply on August 28, 2018. (Defs. Reply, ECF No. 115.) Childress then filed a motion for sanctions against Defendants on August 31, 2018. (Childress Mot. Sanctions, ECF No. 116.) Defendants filed their response in opposition on September 14, 2018. (Resp. Opp'n Childress Mot. Sanctions, ECF No. 129.)

         On September 4, 2018, Jaco filed her second motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Jaco Second Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 118.) Childress filed his response in opposition on September 20, 2018. (Resp. Opp'n Jaco Second Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 133.) On September 13, 2018, all Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Defs. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 126.) After receiving an extension, Childress filed a response in opposition on October 19, 2018. (Resp. Opp'n Defs. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 146.) Defendants filed their reply on October 26, 2018. (Defs. Reply, ECF No. 157.)

         Magistrate Judge Austin issued her Report and Recommendation on December 7, 2018. Defendants filed objections on December 21, 2018. (Defs. Objs., ECF No. 177.) After receiving an extension, Childress filed objections on January 2, 2019. (Childress Objs., ECF No. 180.) This matter is now ripe for review.

         II. Discussion of the Law

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id. at 248.

         A litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). “[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate.” Monahan v. Cty. of Chesterfield, Va., 95 F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Ballenger v. N.C. Agric. Extension Serv., 815 F.2d 1001, 1005 (4th Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         B. Motion to ...


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