USA v. Hylton et al
BENCH RULING: Based on the preceding findings of fact and conclusions of law, this court orders that judgment in the amount of $31,750 be entered in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo and $44,341.05 in favor of Ms. Wilson. The government and intervenors are directed to file their Motions for Injunctive Relief and Attorneys' Fees by 5/15/2013. Signed by Judge Janet C. Hall on 5/1/2013.(Lewis, D)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
TAIKA BILBO, ET AL
CLIFTON HYLTON, ET AL,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
MAY 1, 2013
The United States of America (“the government”) brings this action on behalf
of Jermaine Bilbo (“Mr. Bilbo”), Taika Bilbo (“Mrs. Bilbo”), and DeMechia Wilson (“Ms.
Wilson”) (collectively “the intervenors”), to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 3601, et seq. The action is brought against Merline Hylton (“Ms. Hylton”), Clifton
Hylton (“Mr. Hylton”), and Hylton Real Estate Management (“HREM”) as the owner and
managers of a property located at 5 Townline Road, Windsor Locks, CT.
The Complaint (Doc. No. 1) alleges that the defendants violated the Fair Housing
Act in three ways: (1) by refusing to negotiate for the rental of 5 Townline Road to Ms.
Wilson and her two minor children because of their race, in violation of section 3604(a)
of title 42 of the United States Code; (2) by discriminating against Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo
and Ms. Wilson and her minor children in the terms, conditions, or privileges of renting a
dwelling because of race, in violation of section 3604(b); and (3) by making
discriminatory statements based on race regarding the rental of 5 Townline Road, in
violation of section 3604(c).
FINDINGS OF FACT
Mr. and Mrs. Hylton are married and both are black and of West-Indian descent.
They both own multiple properties in Connecticut. Mr. Hylton is the sole owner, officer,
and director of Hylton Real Estate Management, Inc. (HREM). HREM is a property
manager and was created approximately five to seven years ago. A property
manager’s role is to interview, select, and correspond with tenants, collect rent, and
repair properties. Mrs. Hylton has no involvement in HREM. Mr. Hylton opened a
checking account in the name of HREM, and he sometimes pays his mortgages using
that checking account, although sometimes he uses a personal account. Mr. Hylton
started HREM in part to organize his real estate holdings and also, in part, to protect
himself from liability. From June 2009 to June 2010, Mr. Hylton was engaged in the
business of renting dwellings.
Mrs. Hylton owns 5 Townline Road. She had no involvement in renting the
house or in interacting with the renters (both the Bilbos and the Joneses, the current
tenants). She had Mr. Hylton handle all aspects of the rental. He identified himself as
the person of contact for potential renters, he showed the house, he collected the
application, he provided and picked up the lease, and he collected rent. However, Mr.
Hylton discussed with her all of the actions he was taking. Mr. Hylton did not act alone
in renting the property.
The properties owned by the Hyltons are: (1) 6 Meg Way, Windsor Locks, CT
(owned jointly by Mr. and Mrs. Hylton); (2) 73-75 Pine Street, Manchester, CT (owned
by an LLC, with Mr. Hylton as the sole member); (3) 92-94 Baltimore Street, Hartford,
CT (owned by an LLC, with Mr. Hylton as the sole member); (4) 9 – 11 Benton Street,
Hartford, CT (owned by an LLC, with Mr. Hylton and HREM as the sole members); (5)
27 Norfolk Street, Hartford, CT (owned by an LLC, with Mr. Hylton as the sole member);
(6) 9 – 11 Lilley Street, Manchester, CT (owned by an LLC, with Mr. Hylton as the sole
member); (7) 381 Sigourney Street, Hartford, CT (owned by Mrs. Hylton); (8) 5 Towline
Road, Windsor Locks, CT (owned by Mrs. Hylton). Most of Mr. and Mrs. Hylton’s
tenants are Puerto Rican or black and a high majority of tenants (between 80 and 99%)
receive Section 8 housing.
Mr. and Mrs. Hylton were living at 5 Townline Road until they purchased a house
at 6 Meg Way in Windsor Locks, CT, on September 10, 2008. They tried to sell 5
Townline Road, but were unable to do so. After trying to sell 5 Townline Road to no
avail, the Hyltons offered the house for rent by posting an ad on craigslist.com. The ad
directed interested applicants to contact Mr. Hylton about the property.
Mrs. Bilbo responded to the ad by calling Mr. Hylton. Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo are
married with three children. Mr. Bilbo is African-American. Mrs. Bilbo is white. On April
14, 2010, Mr. Hylton met with the Bilbos to show them the house at 5 Townline Road.
Mr. Hylton gave the Bilbos a tour of the property, answered their questions, and
provided the Bilbos with a rental application. The Bilbos completed the rental
application at the property and provided it to Mr. Hylton. They did not provide, nor did
Mr. Hylton request, supporting documentation to confirm the information provided on the
rental application. The rental application signed by the Bilbos carried the name “Hylton
Real Estate Management, Inc.” At no point while viewing, applying for, or renting 5
Townline Road did Mr. or Mrs. Bilbo speak with Mrs. Hylton. However, Mr. Hylton
consulted with Mrs. Hylton as to renting the house to the Bilbos.
The Bilbos moved into the house at 5 Townline Road shortly before May 1, 2010.
Mr. Hylton left a lease in the house for them to complete, which he later picked up. The
lease bore the name “Hylton Real Estate Management, Inc.” at the top. Mr. and Mrs.
Hylton both signed the lease (as did the Bilbos). The Bilbos paid a security deposit of
Before Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo rented 5 Townline Road, they had considered
purchasing a house. Around the second week of May 2010, their mortgage broker
advised them that they could obtain a loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs
because Mr. Bilbo is a veteran. Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo began looking in the area and found
a house they wanted to purchase on May 28, 2010. Their offer on the house was
approved on May 29, 2010. On May 29, 2010, Mr. Bilbo called Mr. Hylton to inform him
that he and his wife needed to break their lease. Mr. Hylton was upset and informed
Mr. Bilbo that he wanted him to buy out the lease, which extended until May 2011. Mr.
Bilbo sent Mr. Hylton a letter, on or around June 1, 2010, informing him in writing that he
expected to close on a house on June 30, 2010, and would no longer be able to rent 5
Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo decided they would find someone to sublet the home for Mr.
Hylton. On June 18, 2010, the Bilbos posted an advertisement on craigslist.com listing
5 Townline Road for rent for $1,750 per month. The advertisement listed the house
available as of July 1, 2010. Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo started showing the property. It was at
this time that they reviewed their lease and realized that the lease required the Bilbos to
obtain prior written consent to sublet the property. The Bilbos decided to continue
showing the house and hope that the Hyltons would agree that it was more profitable to
have someone else move in.
Ms. Wilson contacted Mrs. Bilbo on June 21, 2010, about the property. Ms.
Wilson is African-American and has two children. She was living in the North End of
Hartford, Connecticut at the time, with her children and mother. Ms. Wilson was
interested in the house because it was only 10 minutes away from her job and the
school system was comparable to the schools her children attended—schools which are
outside of Hartford because Ms. Wilson would not send her children to the less
advantageous Hartford schools. Ms. Wilson sent her children to Bolton Elementary and
Middle School as part of the regional school choice program.
Ms. Wilson went to view 5 Townline Road on June 22, 2010. Mr. Bilbo showed
her the house and provided her with an application. Mr. Bilbo thought Ms. Wilson would
make an excellent tenant and contacted Mr. Hylton to inform him that he found a viable
subtenant. Mr. Hylton said he was unhappy that the Bilbos were breaking the lease and
that he had bad experiences with subtenants before. Mr. Bilbo told Mr. Hylton that he
felt very comfortable with Ms. Wilson and that she could afford the rent, had references
saying she never paid her rent late, and was looking for a long-term rental.
Mr. Hylton agreed to sublet the property to Ms. Wilson, but said he would
continue to receive rent from the Bilbos (who would receive rent from Ms. Wilson). Mr.
Bilbo asked Mr. Hylton to provide written permission as required by the lease. Mr.
Hylton then asked Mr. Bilbo whether Ms. Wilson is black or white. When Mr. Bilbo told
Mr. Hylton that Ms. Wilson is black, Mr. Hylton said he did not want too many black
people at the property. Mr. Hylton told Mr. Bilbo that he only rented to him and his wife
because Mrs. Bilbo is white, and “it was a good mix.” Mr. Hylton also said that the
neighbors would not want too many black people in the neighborhood. He told Mr. Bilbo
to try and find some good white people who could afford the property because Ms.
Wilson was not going to be able to pay.
Mr. Bilbo was confused and upset by the conversation. He did not understand
how Mr. Hylton could make such statements when he himself is black. Mr. Bilbo
expects to face racism, but not from older black men who he presumes faced even
worse incidents of discrimination than he. He was hurt and shocked by the
conversation and upset that he had to play a role in rejecting Ms. Wilson because of her
race. Mr. Bilbo called Ms. Wilson immediately after his conversation with Mr. Hylton
and told her what happened and apologized that he would not be able to sublet to her.
Ms. Wilson was confused by Mr. Hylton’s reaction given Mr. Bilbo is black, and she was
disappointed that she would have to start her rental search all over again. However, at
the time, she considered it was a good thing she was rejected because she did not want
to rent from someone who thinks like Mr. Hylton.
Mr. Bilbo next called his wife at work and posted on Facebook about what
happened. Mrs. Bilbo was very upset about Mr. Hylton’s statements and emailed Ms.
Wilson to apologize for what transpired. Mrs. Bilbo was scared because Mr. Hylton was
threatening to sue them, and she was upset that she played a part in advertising a
house for a man who thinks such things about people who are like her own family. Mrs.
Bilbo has experienced discrimination many times as someone in an interracial marriage,
but this was the most direct example of such discrimination that she experienced. Mrs.
Bilbo remained upset about the situation and was “on edge” for almost a year. She was
frightened to go to the store for fear that she would run into Mr. Hylton.
Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo moved out of 5 Townline Road just before July 1, 2010. They
never received back their $1,750 security deposit. On August 1, 2010, Mr. and Mrs.
Hylton entered into a one-year lease with Francsoise and Stephen Jones to rent 5
Townline Road for $1,650. Francsoise and Stephen Jones are white. The lease that
the Jones’ signed include a header at the top that reads, “Hylton Real Estate
Management, Inc.” Mr. and Mrs. Hylton both signed each of the leases entered into by
A few months after the Bilbos moved out of 5 Townline Road, Mr. Bilbo ran into
Mr. Hylton at the grocery store. Mr. Hylton waved Mr. Bilbo over and told him that he
tried to put “hooligans” in his house.
Ms. Wilson continued looking for an apartment, but ultimately stayed living with
her mother because she did not want to move her children once the school year began.
She remained living with her mother until 2012, at which point she had to accept an
apartment in East Hartford, CT, instead of in Windsor Locks, CT. Windsor Locks is a
neighborhood with more opportunities and greater upward mobility than East Hartford,
CT. The crime rate is higher in East Hartford, particularly as to violent crime, which is
10 times greater per person. The unemployment rate is substantially higher as is the
number of residents on food stamps. In East Hartford, 37 percent of households are
headed by a female, whereas only 14 percent of households are female-headed in
Windsor Locks. Meanwhile, the number of non-Hispanic black residents in East
Hartford is significantly higher than in Windsor Locks (73 percent versus 6.9 percent).
Four times as many high school students and two and a half times as many middle
school students in East Hartford receive free or reduced lunch, which is a direct
indication of how many students in East Hartford are poor. Meanwhile, the home
ownership rate and median income are both two times higher in Windsor Locks. Ms.
Wilson sends her children to a school in Bolton, CT, as part of the regional choice
program so that her children can get a better education than that available in East
Hartford. Had she moved into 5 Townline Road, Ms. Wilson would have sent her
children to school in Windsor Locks.
The driving distance from 5 Townline Road to Windsor Locks South Elementary
School and Windsor Locks Middle School is 2 miles and 1.4 miles, respectively. The
driving distance from Ms. Wilson’s place of employment—VINFEN-CT, at 860 Prospect
Hill Road in Windsor Locks, CT—to Windsor Locks South Elementary School and
Windsor Locks Middle School is 7.2 miles and 6.5 miles, respectively. The driving
distance from Ms. Wilson’s apartment in East Hartford, CT, to Bolton Elementary School
and Bolton Middle School/High School is 17 miles and 16.7 miles, respectively. The
driving distance from VINFEN-CT to Bolton Elementary School and Bolton Middle
School/High School is 23 miles and 22 miles, respectively. Ms. Wilson travels to and
from her children’s school four times per week during football season (from the start of
school until Thanksgiving) and two times per week during the rest of the year. The
children have off from school on federal holidays; the day after Thanksgiving; December
23 until January 2; four or five days in February for winter recess; and one additional
“professional development” day.
Mrs. Bilbo researched housing discrimination and contacted the Connecticut Fair
Housing Center who submitted a complaint to the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD). HUD conducted an investigation during which an investigator,
Jeffrey Sussman, J.D., spoke with Mr. Hylton. During one of those conversations, Mr.
Hylton told the investigator that, “if you rent to a Puerto Rican today, I guarantee there
will be 10 people there tomorrow.” Pl. Ex. 1 at 5. He also told the investigator that, if it
was a white man who had broken the lease, he would just “sit back and relax and just
sue them.” Id. at 12. During the investigation, the Hyltons also responded to the
complaints of Ms. Wilson and the Bilbos by claiming that they had advertised the
property themselves, received a number of offers, interviewed a number of people
including the Wilsons and made their choice. See Pl. Ex. 4.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The Fair Housing Act states that an aggrieved person may, after filing a
Complaint with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, pursuant to section
3610 of title 42 of the United States Code, elect to have the claims asserted in the
charge decided in a civil action. See 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a). On or about September 7,
2011, Mr. Bilbo, Mrs. Bilbo, Ms. Wilson and her minor children,1 through their attorney,
made a timely election to have the HUD charge resolved in a federal civil action. The
Secretary subsequently authorized the United States Attorney General to file this action
on behalf of the complainants, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o). The Complaint sets
forth three violations of the Fair Housing Act: (1) refusing to negotiate for the rental of
the subject property in violation of section 3604(a); (2) discriminating in the terms,
The court granted the Motion to Withdraw Wilson’s minor children as parties on October 28,
conditions, or privileges of renting a dwelling in violation of section 3604(b); and (3)
making discriminatory statements based on race regarding the rental of the subject
property in violation of 3604(c). The first violation is as to Ms. Wilson only; the second
and third violations are as to Ms. Wilson and Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo.
A. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a)
The FHA makes it unlawful “to refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona
fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make
unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, or
national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a. “A plaintiff can make out a claim of discrimination
either ‘on a theory of disparate impact or one of disparate treatment.’” Fair Housing in
Huntington Committee Inc. v. Town of Huntington, 316 F.3d 357, 366 (2d Cir. 2003).
Here, the plaintiffs are bringing a claim of disparate treatment, i.e., a claim of intentional
discrimination. Khalil v. Farash Corp., 452 F.Supp.2d 203, 207 (W.D.N.Y. 2006)
(distinguishing a claim for intentional discrimination versus a claim that a facially neutral
rule had a disproportionate impact on a protected group); see also Pl. Proposed
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (Doc. No. 86) at 17 (“Plaintiffs here rely on a
theory of disparate treatment”).
To bring a claim for disparate treatment, the plaintiffs may produce either (1)
direct evidence of discriminatory intent or (2) indirect evidence creating an inference of
discriminatory intent under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework.
Gallagher v. Magner, 619 F.3d 823, 831 (8th Cir. 2010); see also Maziarz v. Housing
Authority of the Town of Vernon, 281 F.R.D. 71, 77 (D. Conn. 2012) (stating that,
“[w]here a plaintiff presents direct evidence of discrimination, however, the burdenshifting analysis is inapplicable”).
Direct evidence of discriminatory treatment is evidence “showing a specific link
between the alleged discriminatory animus and the challenged decision, sufficient to
support a finding by a reasonable fact finder that an illegitimate criterion actually
motivated the adverse . . . action.” Gallagher, 619 F.3d at 831 (citing Griffith v. City of
Des Moines, 387 F.3d 733, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). “In other words, a plaintiff brings direct
evidence when he presents a ‘smoking gun’ of discriminatory intent.” Cavalieri-Conway
v. L. Butterman & Assoc., 992 F.Supp. 995, 1003 (7th Cir. 1998). Statements by a
defendant that “he did not rent to Blacks, that Blacks were nothing but trouble,” have
been considered direct evidence of discriminatory treatment. Inland Mediation Bd. v.
City of Pomona, 158 F.Supp.2d 1120, 1132, 1143 (C.D. Cal. 2001); see also Texas v.
Crest Asset Management, Inc., 85 F.Supp.2d 722, 730 (S.D. Tex. 2000) (finding
statements by the defendants that plaintiff was an Arab terrorist and that he should
move out because he was Arab were direct evidence of discrimination).
Before the court is direct evidence that Mr. Hylton refused to allow Mr. and Mrs.
Bilbo to sublet the house at 5 Townline Road to Ms. Wilson because she is black.
Although skeptical at first, during a June 22nd telephone call, Mr. Hylton agreed to allow
Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo to sublet to Ms. Wilson based on Mr. Bilbo’s representations that Ms.
Wilson had good references, a good job, and would make a good tenant. However, he
changed his mind and refused to allow the sublet once he inquired about Ms. Wilson’s
race and learned that she is black. Therefore, there is clear evidence that it was Ms.
Wilson’s race that led to Mr. Hylton’s decision to prevent her from subletting 5 Townline
Once a plaintiff produces direct evidence of discrimination, the burden of proof
shifts to the defendants to show that they would have made the same decision
regardless of discriminatory animus. Crest Asset Management, 85 F.Supp.2d at 730731. However, the defendants cannot prevail “by offering a legitimate and sufficient
reason for its decision if that reason did not motivate it at the time of the decision.”
Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 252 (1989). The Hyltons have not
presented any evidence that they had a legitimate reason for refusing to sublet to Ms.
Wilson. In fact, Mr. Hylton agreed to sublet to Ms. Wilson and only changed his mind
once he learned of her race, showing that there could have been no other reason for the
denial than Ms. Wilson’s race. Therefore, this court finds that Mr. Hylton violated
A. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b)
Section 3604(b) makes it unlawful “[t]o discriminate against any person in the
terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of
services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex,
familial status, or national origin.”2 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b). “Violations of section 3604(b)
are recognized where such differences include showing a member of a protected class
fewer apartments, quoting higher rents, quoting later days of availability, requiring
applications and credit checks, or representing apartment features differently (e.g., ‘a
one bedroom for the white tester; black tester told unit is really small’).” Fair Housing
Again, direct evidence of discrimination obviates the need to apply the McDonnell Douglas
Justice Center, Inc. v. Broadway Crescent Realty, Inc., 2011 WL 856095, at * 6
(S.D.N.Y. Mar. 9. 2011). They also include making an apartment available to a white
tenant and making a non-white tenant wait for an apartment to become available at a
later date, Williamsburg Fair Housing Committee v. New York City Housing Authority,
493 F.Supp. 1225, 1248 (S.D.N.Y. 1980) (“When the staff filled a vacancy in a Whitedesignated apartment by going down the list to find the next White family, they would be
denying the apartment to the non-White families passed over. Such a non-White family
would, at least for a time, have been denied an apartment for which it was eligible.
Stated differently, that family would have been discriminated against in the privileges of
a rental.”), and falsely stating to a black customer that no homes are for sale, see
Village of Bellwood v. Dwivedi, 895 F.2d 1521 (7th Cir. 1990) (stating that this conduct
constitutes discrimination on racial grounds against the person in the provision of real
The court concludes that Mr. Hylton discriminated in the terms, conditions, or
privileges of a rental, in violation of section 3604(b), in two ways. First, as to the Bilbos,
Mr. Hylton discriminated in the terms and conditions of a rental by preventing the Bilbos
from subletting 5 Townline Road because of Ms. Wilson’s race. The lease agreement
allowed the Bilbos to sublet if they received written permission from the Hyltons. Mr.
Hylton, although angry at first, agreed to allow the Bilbos to sublet 5 Townline Road to
Ms. Wilson. However, when he later learned that Ms. Wilson was black, he recanted
his approval and prevented the Bilbos from subletting. He told Mr. Bilbo to try and find
some good white people who could afford the property. Therefore, it is clear that Mr.
Hylton would have allowed the Bilbos to sublet to Ms. Wilson had she been white. By
preventing the Bilbos from subletting because of Ms. Wilson’s race, Mr. Hylton
discriminated against the Bilbos in the terms of their rental based on race, in violation of
section 3604(b). See HUD v. Gugliemi, 1990 WL 456958, at *9, Fair Hous.-Fair
Lending Rptr. P 25,004 (HUD ALJ 1990) (finding a violation as to the owner of a mobile
home when the mobile home park prevented the owner from selling her home to a
family with children); see also United States v. L & H Corp., Inc., 407 F.Supp. 576, 580
(S.D. Fla. 1976) (holding that a defendant’s refusal to permit a white tenant to entertain
African-American guests constituted discriminatory conduct against both the white
tenant and the African-American guests).
Second, Mr. Hylton discriminated against Ms. Wilson in the privileges of a rental
by refusing to allow her to rent 5 Townline Road. See Williamsburg Fair Housing, 493
F.Supp. at 1248 (holding that passing over a qualified Hispanic or black tenant to give
an apartment to a white tenant to meet a quota constituted discrimination in the
“privilege” of renting); see also HUD v. Kogut, 1995 WL 225277, at *12 (HUD ALJ 1995)
(“Because residency is one of the many ‘terms, conditions, or privileges of . . . rental,’
when Respondents terminated Complainant’s residency because she rejected Mr.
Kogut’s sexual advance [in violation of section 3604(a)], they also violated 41 U.S.C. §
3604(b).”); HUD v. Kelly, 1992 WL 406534, at * (HUD ALJ 1992) (finding that a
statement that complainant had “one child too many” to rent the apartment constituted a
violation of section 3604(b)). When Mr. Hylton refused to rent to Ms. Wilson, he
prevented her from assuming residency and enjoying the privilege of renting 5 Townline
Road. “Title VIII requires no more to establish a violation” of section 3604(b).
Williamsburg Fair Housing, 493 F.Supp. at 1248.
B. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c)
Section 3604(c) makes it unlawful to “make, print, or publish, or cause to be
made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the
sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination
based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or an
intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination.” 42 U.S.C. §
3604(c). This prohibition applies to “all written or oral notices or statements made by a
person engaged in the sale or rental of a dwelling,” which “include . . . expressing to . . .
any . . . persons a preference for or limitation on any purchaser or renter because of
race.” 24 C.F.R. § 100.75; see also Soules v. United States Dept. of Housing and
Urban Development, 967 F.2d 817, 824 (2d Cir. 1992) (stating that “[o]penly
discriminatory oral statements merit . . . straightforward treatment” by the court in finding
FHA violations); United States v. Gilman, 341 F.Supp. 891, 896-97 (S.D.N.Y. 1972)
(finding that defendant’s statement to tenant that if she had anyone who was interested
in renting an apartment, she should send them to the defendant and to make sure that
her friends were white violated section 3604(c)).
To determine whether an owner or renter’s statement indicates impermissible
racial discrimination, the court asks whether the statement “suggests to an ordinary . . .
listener that a particular race is preferred or dispreferred for the housing in question.”
Soules, 967 F.2d at 824 (citing Ragin v. New York Times Co., 923 F.2d 995, 999 (2d
Cir. 1991). Here, Mr. Hylton’s statements explicitly state that he would prefer a tenant
who is white rather than a tenant who is black. He told Mr. Bilbo that he did not want
too many black people at the property and that Mr. Bilbo should try and find some good
white people who could afford the property. He further told Mr. Bilbo that the only
reason he was allowed to rent the house was because his wife is white. There is no
other way to interpret Mr. Hyltons comments than to find they “suggest . . . that a
particular race is preferred . . . [and another race is] dispreferred for the housing in
question.” Id. Therefore, Mr. Hylton violated section 3604(c).
Furthermore, Mr. Hylton violated section 3604(c) as to both Ms. Wilson and the
Bilbos, even though Mr. Hylton made the statements only to Mr. Bilbo. Under the FHA,
discriminatory remarks that a defendant merely communicates to a person may
sufficiently injure that person. See Ragin v. N.Y. Times, 923 F.2d 995, 1005 (2d Cir.
1991) (ruling that a plaintiff’s mere reading of a discriminatory newspaper advertisement
could establish standing under the FHA if that advertisement caused substantial
distress). As to Mr. Bilbo, Mr. Hylton made the statement directly to him, and he
testified at length about the harm that caused him.
As to Mrs. Bilbo, “[i]t has long been held that whites have standing to sue under
section 3604(c) for discriminatory statements made against non-whites.” Wentworth v.
Hedson, 493 F.Supp.2d 559, 566 (E.D.N.Y. 2007); see also Roberts, 2001 WL 56376,
at *7 (finding violation as to both husband and wife regarding statements made to a
white woman about her black husband). Although Mr. Hylton made the discriminatory
statements to Mr. Bilbo, not directly to Mrs. Bilbo, she still has standing to seek relief for
a section 3604(c) violation because “the sole requirement for standing to sue under
[section] 812 [of the Fair Housing Act] is the Art[icle] III minima of injury in fact: that the
plaintiff allege that as a result of the defendant’s actions, [s]he has suffered ‘a distinct
and palpable injury.’” Havens v. Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 372 (1982).
Here, because Mrs. Bilbo testified that she suffered significant emotional distress as a
direct result of Mr. Hylton’s discriminatory comments, relayed to her by her husband,
she has alleged sufficient injury to confer standing as an “aggrieved person.” See HUD
v. Roberts, 2001 WL 56376, at *7 (HUD ALJ 2001) (finding husband had standing to
seek relief under section 3604(c) when wife relayed discriminatory comments to him).
Similarly, as to Ms. Wilson, even though she heard about the statements from
Mr. Bilbo, not Mr. Hylton, she was injured by the discriminatory attack against her. This
is sufficient to warrant relief under section 3604(c). See HUD v. Schmid, 1999 WL
521524, at *10, Fair Hous.-Fair Lending Rptr. P 25,139 (HUD ALJ 1999) (awarding
damages to a mother and her son for statements made to the mother); HUD v. Roberts,
2001 WL 56376, at *7 (finding that statements made to a plaintiff’s wife regarding his
race sufficiently injured the plaintiff in violation of section 3604(c)).
C. Vicarious Liability
Although Mr. Hylton is the individual who directly discriminated against Ms.
Wilson and the Bilbos, both Mrs. Hylton and HREM may be held vicariously liable for his
1. Mrs. Hylton
“It is clear that under the FHA, owners of real estate may be held vicariously
liable for discriminatory acts by their agents and employees.” Glover v. Jones, 522
F.Supp.2d 496, 506 (W.D.N.Y. 2007). Therefore, if Mr. Hylton was acting as Mrs.
Hylton’s agent, Mrs. Hylton, as sole owner of 5 Townline Road, is also liable for his
discriminatory actions. See Cabrera v. Jakabovitz, 24 F.3d 372, 385 (2d Cir. 1994)
(upholding jury finding that realty company and its brokers were agents for the landlords
and that all were liable for the discriminatory practices of the brokers); see also Glover,
522 F.Supp.2d at 507 (stating that “Jones is the owner of the property . . . [and] [a]s
such, she may be held personally liable”).
To prove agency, three elements must be proven: “(1) the manifestation by the
principal that the agent shall act for him; (2) the agent’s acceptance of the undertaking;
and (3) the understanding of the parties that the principal is to be in control of the
undertaking.” Cleveland v. Caplaw Enterprises, 448 F.3d 518, 522 (2d Cir. 2006)
(applying agency rules to FHA context).
Mrs. Hylton owns 5 Townline Road. Yet, she had no involvement in renting the
house or in interacting with the renters (both the Bilbos and the Joneses, the current
tenants). She had Mr. Hylton handle all aspects of the rental. Therefore, the first two
elements of agency are satisfied: Mrs. Hylton gave Mr. Hylton authority to act on her
behalf and Mr. Hylton accepted such authority. As to the third element, Mrs. Hylton
testified that Mr. Hylton discussed with her all of the actions he was taking and that he
did not act alone. In fact, Mrs. Hylton signed the lease for the Bilbos’ rental as well as
the Jones’, indicating her approval and agreement. Therefore, the court concludes that
Mrs. Hylton employed Mr. Hylton as her agent and is, therefore, liable for his
discriminatory conduct.3 See Cato v. Jilek, 779 F.Supp. 937, 946, n.21 (N.D. Ill. 1991)
(stating that wife, who “did not herself engage in overtly discriminatory conduct but
merely deferred to” her husband’s decisions was liable because her husband acted as
her agent in renting the apartment); Hamilton v. Svatik, 779 F.2d 383, 388 (7th Cir.
The fact that Mr. Hylton is Mrs. Hylton’s husband does not change the analysis. “The principal
owner’s liability is unaffected by the fact that the person committing the discriminatory acts in the course
of disposing of the property is a relative or neighbor rather than a professional real estate agent.” Cato,
779 F.Supp. at 937, n.21 (citing Coates v. Bechtel, 811 F.2d 1045, 1051 (7th Cir. 1987).
1985) (finding defendant liable because, “[a]lthough there may be no evidence of
Eleanor’s involvement in the incident, it is undisputed that she is the sole owner of the
building and that her brother acts as her agent”)
As to HREM, the property management company owned by Mr. Hylton, “[t]he
Fair Housing Act imposes liability without fault on employers in accordance with
traditional agency principles.” Mitchell v. Shane, 350 F.3d 39, 50 (2d Cir. 2003) (stating
that, if a real estate agent is found liable for discrimination, his employer, Century 21
Real Estate, may also be liable); HUD v. Active Agency, 1999 WL 756778, at *5, Fair
Hous.-Fair Lending Rptr. P 25,141 (HUD ALJ 1999) (“A real estate firm and its brokers
and owners may be held liable for the discriminatory acts of the firm’s agents, whether
or not they directed or authorized the particular acts.”). Vicarious liability rules make
principals or employers vicariously liable for acts of their agents or employees in the
scope of their authority or employment. Meyer v. Holley, 537 U.S. 280, 287 (2003)
(applying traditional vicarious liability principles to the Fair Housing Act context).
The overarching issue becomes whether Mr. Hylton was serving as an agent of
HREM when he discriminated against Ms. Wilson and the Bilbos. HREM is a property
manager. A property manager collects rent, interviews applicants, and performs
repairs. In the rental of 5 Townline Road, Mr. Hylton performed those functions: he
identified himself as the person of contact for potential renters, he showed the Bilbos
the house, he collected the application, he provided and picked up the lease, and he
collected rent. Furthermore, when he performed these functions, he used documents
bearing the name “Hylton Real Estate Management, Inc.” at the top. In fact, even
though only Mrs. Hylton owns 5 Townline Road, Mr. Hylton also signed the Bilbos’
lease. See Pl. Ex. 18. There would be no reason for Mr. Hylton to sign the lease
unless he was signing the lease in his capacity as property manager.
Therefore, the court concludes that Mr. Hylton managed the 5 Townline Road
property as a property manager and that he did so as an agent for HREM. See United
States v. Habersham Properties, Inc., 319 F.Supp.2d 1366, 1375 (N.D. Ga. 2003)
(stating that a management company was clearly the agent of the corporate owner of an
apartment complex and that the management company, “as a corporation, can only act
through individuals”). Because Mr. Hylton’s discriminatory actions were within the
scope of his role with HREM, see id. at 1376 (stating that it was within the scope of
agent’s employment with management company that “she was interacting with
applicants and making judgments regarding applicants”), HREM is vicariously liable for
Mr. Hylton’s actions.4 See United States v. Northside Realty Assoc., Inc., 474 F.2d
1164, 1168 (5th Cir. 1973) (upholding lower court’s finding of corporate liability in light of
the fact that the individual defendant was the executive vice president of the corporation
and was the “broker whose license . . . enables it to engage in the business of selling
By finding HREM vicariously liable for Mr. Hylton’s actions, the court has not transferred liability
for damages from Mr. Hylton to HREM. Rather, both HREM and Mr. Hylton, along with Mrs. Hylton, are
liable for the violations. See City of Chicago v. Matchmaker Real Estate Sales Center, Inc., 982 F.2d
1086, 1094, 1098 (7th Cir. 1992) (approving lower court’s finding that realty corporation, owner of
corporation, and individual agents were jointly liable for discrimination by agents); Jeanty v. McKey &
Poague, Inc., 496 F.2d 1119, 1120 (7th Cir. 1974) (overturning lower court’s dismissal of rental company
and rental agent defendants, after entering judgment against owner, because “the discriminatory acts
alleged were performed by” the rental company’s employees).
D. 42 U.S.C. § 3603(b)(1) Exemption
The Hyltons argue that they are not subject to the provisions of section 3604(a)
and (b) because they are exempt. Under the statute, the prohibitions set forth in section
3604, other than subsection (c), do not apply to:
any single-family house sold or rented by an owner provided that such private
individual does not own more than three such single-family homes at any one
time . . . if such house is sold or rented (A) without the use in any manner of the
sales or rental facilities or the sales or rental services of any real estate broker,
agent, or salesman, or of such facilities or services of any person in the business
of selling or renting dwellings. . . and (B) without the publication, posting or
mailing, after notice, of any advertisement or written notice in violation of section
3604(c) of this title . . .”
42 U.S.C. § 3603(b)(1). In other words, “[t]he single-family dwelling owner can escape
the rigors of Section 3604 . . . only if he goes his discriminatory way alone.” Dixon v.
Muchnik, (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 19, 2011) (quoting Singleton v. Gendason, 545 F.2d 1224,
1227 (9th Cir. 1976)).
First, the court notes that only Mrs. Hylton may reap the benefit of the 3603(b)
exemption as owner of 5 Townline Road. See HUD ex rel. Garrett et al. v. Maze et al.,
No. 10-M-015-FH4, 2011 WL 2201105, at *3 (HUD ALJ May 25, 2011) (holding that,
because there was no evidence that a defendant possessed an ownership interest in
the property, he was not entitled to the exemption). Because neither Mr. Hylton nor
HREM own the property, they cannot fall within the exemption and they remain liable for
the 3604(a) and (b) violations in addition to the 3604(c) violation.
Mrs. Hylton meets the first requirement of the exemption: she owns no more than
three single-family homes. Further, she did not rent her home by using a publication,
posting, or advertisement that violated section 3604(c). Therefore, the only issue is
whether she used the facilities or services of any person in the business of selling or
renting dwellings. Mrs. Hylton argues that Mr. Hylton acted as her husband when he
assisted her in renting 5 Townline Road and not as someone in the business of renting
dwellings. The government and intervenors argue that Mrs. Hylton knowingly employed
the services of her husband, acting through his company HREM, to rent her property.
Mrs. Hylton relies on Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc. v. Babin,
799 F.Supp. 695 (E.D. Mich. 1992). In Babin, the court held that a defendant is not
precluded from benefiting from section 3603(b) simply because she happens to be a
real estate agent. Id. at 705. According to the Babin court, it would be inequitable to
construe section 3603(b) to “render nonexempt all private transactions by persons in the
real estate business.” Id. Such an interpretation would “deprive these individuals of a
statutory exemption solely because of their occupation.” Id.
However, the Babin court also stated that section 3603(b) “indicates a
congressional desire to provide an exemption only for those homeowners operating in
[a] purely nonprofessional manner—that is, not acting as professionals or retaining a
professional on their behalf.” In Babin, the defendant—although a real estate agent—
was merely trying to sell the home she owned and not acting as a real estate agent in
the process. The same cannot be said of Mr. and Mrs. Hylton.
Mr. Hylton stipulated that he is in the business of renting dwellings. He testified
that in that business, he performs tasks such as showing rental properties, meeting with
prospective tenants, selecting tenants, collecting rent, and performing repairs. Those
are the same tasks he performed in the rental of 5 Townline Road (except for
performing repairs, which the Bilbos were obligated to do pursuant to the lease
agreement). In the process of renting 5 Townline Road, he also used rental
applications and leases that bore the name Hylton Real Estate Management, Inc. He
used these documents not only when renting to the Bilbos, but also when he later
rented the house to the Joneses. In addition to using HREM documents, he personally
signed each of the leases, along with Mrs. Hylton, even though he holds no ownership
interest in the property. To the court, this supports the court’s finding that Mr. Hylton
was renting the house in his capacity as an officer of HREM, see infra, p. 19-20 (finding
HREM vicariously liable for Mr. Hylton’s actions).
Mr. Hylton attempted to explain his use of the HREM documents by claiming that
he had extra leases in his truck at the time and that his use of the HREM documents
was merely a coincidence. However, the court does not find this claim compelling for
two reasons. First, Mr. Hylton’s explanation only addresses why he used an HREM
lease when renting to the Bilbos. He also used an HREM rental application, which he
gave to the Bilbos at least a week before he left the lease for them when they moved in.
Second, Mr. Hylton continued to use HREM documents when renting 5 Townline Road
to the Joneses in 2010 and 2011. Therefore, the court concludes that it was no mere
“coincidence” that led Mr. Hylton to use the HREM documents in the rental of 5
The court notes that there is language in Babin that one could interpret to
suggest that a defendant’s use of documents bearing a corporate logo is not a factor in
the exemption analysis. In Babin, the Sixth Circuit rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that
the defendant used the services of a real estate agency by utilizing closing documents
that bore the company logo. Babin, 799 F.Supp. at 705. The court held that there was
no evidence that the defendant operated in conjunction with the real estate agency in
the sale of the home—the closing documents were marked N/A in the section reserved
for the terms of the broker’s commission and were otherwise devoid of any mention of a
real estate broker. Id. Therefore, rather than holding that use of documents bearing a
corporate logo is irrelevant, the Babin court found that other evidence suggested that
the real estate agency had no involvement in the sale of the home despite use of the
corporate logo on the closing documents.
Unlike the facts in Babin, here, Mr. Hylton performed all of the tasks of a property
manager in the rental of 5 Townline Road, see HUD ex rel. Garrett et al. v. Maze et al.,
No. 10-M-015-FH4, 2011 WL 2201105, at *2 (HUD ALJ May 25, 2011) (finding that
respondent was in the business of renting housing because he actively managed rental
properties and engaged in rental services including “entering into rental agreements,
collecting rent and security deposits from tenants, providing and paying for water
service for the trailers, maintaining the trailers, and completing repairs on the
properties”), he shielded Mrs. Hylton from performing these tasks5, he repeatedly used
HREM documents to rent his property, and he personally signed each of the leases
even though he was not the owner, suggesting he was acting through HREM as Mrs.
Hylton’s agent. Therefore, the court concludes that the exemption in section 3603(b)
does not apply and Mrs. Hylton remains liable under sections 3604(a) and (b) in
addition to section 3604(c).
Mrs. Hylton testified that only her husband met with prospective tenants, collected rent, and
served as the contact for the rental. In addition, a number of ads were posted regarding rental of 5
Townline Road. Mrs. Hylton testified that, after the Bilbos moved out of 5 Townline Road, one of those
advertisements was placed by her niece, at her request.
The intervenors are seeking injunctive relief—in the form of three hours of
training annually and three years of monitoring—as well as compensatory and punitive
damages. See Compl. at 6.
1. Injunctive Relief
Section 3613(c)(1) authorizes the court to award a plaintiff relief in the form of
“any permanent or temporary injunction . . . or other order (including an order enjoining
the defendant from engaging in such practice or ordering such affirmative action as may
be appropriate).” 42 U.S.C. § 3613(c)(1). Numerous courts have granted injunctive
relief in the form of training and monitoring. See e.g., Southern California Housing
Rights Ctr. v. Krug, 564 F.Supp.2d 1138, 1153 (C.D. Cal. 2007); Ueno v. Napolitano,
2007 WL 1395517, at *6 (E.D.N.Y. May 11, 2007). The court should craft such
injunctive relief “with a view toward the statute's goals of preventing future violations and
removing lingering effects of past discrimination.” United States v. Space Hunters, 2004
WL 2674608, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 23, 2004).
The government and intervenors have not indicated how the Hyltons would be
monitored or what type of training they would receive and by whom. Without such
guidance, the court does not see how it can abide by Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, requiring it to state the terms of every injunction specifically. Therefore,
the court directs the government and intervenors to file a Motion for Injunctive Relief
with the court within 14 days (the defendants may respond 14 days later) so it can
consider whether the proposed training and monitoring is reasonable in light of the
court’s findings and so it can craft an order that meets the requirements of Rule 65.
2. Compensatory Damages
Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo request damages totaling $76,750. That number reflects the
$1,750 security deposit that the Hyltons never returned, $50,000 in damages for Mr.
Bilbo’s emotional distress, and $25,000 in damages for Mrs. Bilbo’s emotional distress.
Ms. Wilson requests damages totaling $28,440. That number reflects $3,440 in
economic damages totaling the amount of money she spent on gas driving the farther
distance to and from her children’s schools for 80 weeks. In addition, it includes
$25,000 for emotional distress and loss of housing opportunity.
First, as the court found that the Hyltons failed to return the Bilbo’s security
deposit, and there is no evidence that there was a basis for such withholding—given
that the Bilbos found a satisfactory subtenant willing to pay rent at the same rate—the
court awards $1,750 to the Bilbos in money damages for loss of their security deposit.
Second, the court also awards Ms. Wilson money damages to compensate her for the
cost of gas used to drive the further distance from Hartford to her job in Windsor Locks
and to the children’s schools in Bolton. Had Ms. Wilson been allowed to sublet the
house at 5 Townline Road, she could have sent her children to school in Windsor
Locks, which would have shortened her commute both to her children’s schools and to
Ms. Wilson testified that she drives to and from her children’s schools
approximately two times per week. During football season, which lasts from the
beginning of the school year in September to right before Thanksgiving, she drives to
and from school four times per week. Connecticut law requires public schools to be in
session for at least 180 days, or 36 weeks, per year. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-16.
Therefore, for about 12 weeks out of the year, Ms. Wilson drives to school four times
per week. For the other 24 weeks, she drives two times per week.
Ms. Wilson testified that she would either leave from work or her house to pick up
her children. Therefore, the court will determine damages based on half of her round
trips each week beginning from her office to school to her home and the other half from
her home to school and back. Based on the mileage from her office and home in
Hartford to the children’s schools in Bolton, the court determines that she drove 3,552
miles per year. Based on the mileage from her office and 5 Townline Road to the
Windsor Locks schools, the court determines that she would have driven 633.6 miles
per year. The difference in mileage per year is 2,918.4 miles. She suffered damages
from the start of the school year in September 2010 to the present, which equals 2
years and approximately 7 months. The total difference in mileage is, therefore, 8,025.6
The federal mileage reimbursement scale set the standard mileage rate at 50
cents per miles in 2010; 51 cents per miles from January 1 to June 30, 2011; 55.5 cents
per mile from July 1, 2011 to December 30, 2012; and 56.5 cents per miles starting
January 1, 2013. See Internal Revenue Service website, available at
http://www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Standard-Mileage-Rates; see also
http://www.irs.gov/uac/2013-Standard-Mileage-Rates-Up-1-Cent-per-Mile-for-Business,Medical-and-Moving. The average rate over 2 years and 7 months is 54.09 cents.
Therefore, the court awards Ms. Wilson $4,341.05 in economic damages.6
Third, as to the request for damages for emotional distress, “[i]t is axiomatic that
civil rights plaintiffs may recover compensatory damages for emotional distress.” Ragin,
6 F.3d at 907. It is not necessary for a plaintiff to provide evidence of treatment by a
healthcare professional or use of medication to be entitled to damages for emotional
distress. See Parris v. Pappas, 844 F.Supp.2d 271, 278 (D. Conn. 2012)
(distinguishing “significant” and “egregious” claims for emotional distress from “garden
variety” claims for emotional distress). In the context of Fair Housing Act violations,
courts have “recognized the severe mental trauma associated with unlawful
discrimination and have upheld large compensatory awards for the victims in such
cases.” Broome v. Biondi, 17 F. Supp. 2d 211, 224 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). “The key factors
in determining emotional distress damages are the complainant’s reaction to the
discriminatory conduct and the egregiousness of the respondent’s behavior.” HUD v.
Walker, 2012 WL 2951587, at *2 (HUD ALJ 2012).
When claims have been categorized as “garden variety”—meaning the claim for
distress is devoid of evidence of medical treatment or physical manifestation—the
amount of damages authorized ranges from $5,000 to $125,000. Parris, 844 F.Supp.2d
at 278, n.9. Here, Mr. Bilbo described the shock and pain Mr. Hylton’s comments
caused him. He discussed how the comments were particularly alarming to him
because he expected someone like Mr. Hylton to be an ally, not an antagonist. The
Facebook posts from his Facebook page—made soon after his conversation with Mr.
Ms. Wilson also requested damages reflecting the additional time she spent driving to and from
her children’s school multiplied by her hourly wage. There is no evidence that Ms. Wilson had to miss
work to drive her children the extra distance to and from school. Therefore, the court does not award
Hylton—reflect his anger and distress and corroborate his testimony. However, Mr.
Bilbo did not testify to long-term distress or any interference with work or daily activities.
In fact, when asked how long his feelings of anger and hurt lasted, he testified that they
lasted for the entire day in which he had the conversation with Mr. Hylton. Although he
testified that speaking about the incident brought back his feelings of anger and pain,
the court cannot conclude that Mr. Bilbo suffered distress for a prolonged period of time.
Therefore, the court awards Mr. Bilbo $10,000 in damages to reflect his emotional
Mrs. Bilbo spoke of the pain she felt upon hearing of Mr. Hylton’s comments,
particularly as the wife and mother of an African-American husband and children. She
also testified that she was afraid of Mr. Hylton after he threatened to sue her and her
husband for breaking the lease. She testified that she was afraid of running into Mr.
Hylton at the grocery store. However, these fears were as much because she and her
husband broke their lease, which angered Mr. Hylton, as it was about his discriminatory
comments. The court cannot determine that all of Mrs. Bilbo’s emotional distress was a
result of the Hylton’s discriminatory conduct. Therefore, the court awards $5,000 in
damages reflecting Mrs. Bilbo’s emotional distress.
Ms. Wilson testified that she was confused by Mr. Hylton’s comments and
disappointed that she would have to keep looking for a place to live. But, she did not
testify to feeling hurt or pained by his conduct. She merely said that she was glad she
was rejected because she did not want to rent from someone like Mr. Hylton. It is hard
to see how Ms. Wilson suffered emotional distress based on this testimony.
However, the court finds that Ms. Wilson suffered damages in the form of lost
housing opportunities. See Short v. Manhattan Apartments, Inc., 2012 WL 6827386, at
*23 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 3, 2012) (awarding $20,000 in total damages for lost housing
opportunities and emotional distress where the “[d]efendant’s refusal to show Mr. Short
available apartments reduced his opportunity to find suitable housing and resulted in Mr.
Short’s prolonged stay at an unsanitary SRO); HUD v. Jorgenson, 1995 WL 225277, at
*15 (HUD ALJ 1995) (awarding $25,000 in damages for emotional distress, lost housing
opportunities, and physical harm). Based on the extensive testimony of Professor
Lance Freeman, an expert in the field of “neighborhood effects,” the court concludes
that there are vast differences between the neighborhoods of Windsor Locks and East
Hartford such that a resident of East Hartford has fewer “life chances” than a resident of
In Hartford, there are a lower proportion of white residents, a substantially higher
rate of unemployment, a greater percentage of residents on food stamps, a higher
percentage of female-headed households, and a significantly higher crime rate,
particularly as to violent crime. All of these factors are considered to be indicators of
disadvantage. Meanwhile, in Windsor Locks, the home ownership rate is a little over
two times greater than the rate in East Hartford whereas the median income is twice as
high in Windsor Locks as compared to East Hartford. Both of these factors are
indicators of advantage. Based on these statistics, Professor Freeman concluded that
there is more opportunity and greater upward mobility and achievement in Windsor
Locks as compared to East Hartford. According to Professor Freeman, East Hartford is
a particularly disadvantaged area relative to Windsor Locks. He testified that the
difference in the rate of violent crime is so dramatic and that such violence, regardless
of whether someone is personally a victim of crime, indisputably impacts the quality of
life in the neighborhood. Further, Professor Freeman testified that even though Ms.
Wilson sends her children to school in Bolton, CT, they are still affected by their peers in
East Hartford who are not getting the same high quality education. Based on Professor
Freeman’s testimony—which the court found credible and compelling—the court awards
$20,000 in damages for lost housing opportunities.
3. Punitive Damages
The intervenors also seek punitive damages. “The FHA expressly provides for
the recovery of punitive damages by plaintiffs who have suffered discriminatory housing
practices.” United States v. Space Hunters, Inc., 429 F.3d 416, 427 (2d Cir. 2005).
“Punitive damages are limited ‘to cases in which the [defendant] has engaged in
intentional discrimination and has done so with malice or with reckless indifference to
the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual.’” Id. (citing Kolstad v. Am.
Dental Ass’n, 527 U.S. 526, 529-30 (1999). “An award of punitive damages is not a
matter of right but is within the discretion of the trier of the facts and will depend upon
the degree of wanton and willful conduct of the defendant.” Paris v. Pappas, 844
F.Supp.2d 271, 281 (D. Conn. 2012) (citing Flaks v. Koegel, 504 F.2d 702, 707 (2d
Cir.1974)). “A plaintiff may establish the requisite state of mind for an award of punitive
damages with evidence (1) that the defendant discriminate[d] in the face of a perceived
risk that its actions ... violate[d] federal law, or (2) of egregious or outrageous acts that
may serve as evidence supporting an inference of the requisite evil motive.” Space
Hunters, 429 F.3d at 427 (internal citations omitted);
Mr. Hylton’s conduct was, by its very nature, indicative of evil motive. See
Gonzalez v. Rakkas, 1995 WL 451034, at *7 (E.D.N.Y. July 25, 1995) (concluding that a
statement by the defendant that she did not want to rent to a Hispanic person and a
corresponding refusal to rent were by their very nature willful and motivated by ill will).
He showed no remorse for his conduct when he continued to make discriminatory
comments to the HUD investigator pursuing Ms. Wilson and the Bilbo’s claims.
Therefore, the court concludes that the evidence supports an award of punitive
damages against Mr. Hylton.
Furthermore, a principal may be liable for punitive damages for the act of her
agent if the principal knew or ratified the acts of the agent. Gonzalez, 1995 WL 451034,
at *7. There is no evidence before the court that Mrs. Hylton was aware of what Mr.
Hylton said during his phone conversation with Mr. Bilbo. Although the court is troubled
that the letter Mrs. Hylton sent to HUD—stating that she and Mr. Hylton “advertised the
property ourselves and had received a number of offers. We interviewed a number of
people including the Wilsons and made our choice”—could suggest she was covering
up the real reason Mr. Hylton rejected Ms. Wilson, the court concludes that Mrs. Hylton
did not intentionally lie to HUD. Mrs. Hylton testified that she wrote the letter based on
information provided to her by Mr. Hylton. There is no reason to believe that Mrs.
Hylton knew that Mr. Hylton did not meet Ms. Wilson. Because there is no evidence
that Mrs. Hylton was aware of Mr. Hylton’s comments or the reason why he rejected Ms.
Wilson, the court does not hold Mrs. Hylton liable for punitive damages.
“Although the Supreme Court has ‘decline[d] . . . to impose a bright-line ratio
which a punitive damages award cannot exceed, it has ‘referenced a long legislative
history . . . providing for sanctions of double, treble, or quadruple damages to deter and
punish.” Parris, 844 F.Supp.2d at 283 (internal citations omitted) (awarding punitive
damages that were one and one half times greater than compensatory damages in a
case in which it found the defendants’ conduct “highly reprehensible”). “In determining
the amount of punitive damages which will both punish and deter, a court should
consider both the nature of the defendants' conduct and the defendants' financial
status.” Gonzalez v. Rakkas, at *8 (awarding $6,600 in punitive damages based on “the
limited evidence submitting indicating the Rakkas’ net worth, the nature of the
defendants’ conduct [as a single incident rather than a pattern or practice], and the
recommended compensatory damages award [of $7,000]”). The court does not have
any evidence regarding the Hylton’s net worth nor is there evidence of a pattern or
practice of discrimination. The court, therefore, awards $15,000 in punitive damages to
the Bilbos, and $20,000 to Ms. Wilson.
4. Attorney’s Fees
Lastly, the intervenors noticed their intention to seek attorney’s fees for the
Connecticut Fair Housing Center if they are the prevailing party. 42 U.S.C. §
3613(c)(2). The court directs the intervenors to file a Motion for Attorneys’ Fees within
14 days of the filing of this Ruling.
Based on the preceding findings of fact and conclusions of law, this court orders
that judgment in the amount of $31,750 be entered in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Bilbo, and
$44,341.05 in favor of Ms. Wilson. The government and intervenors are directed to file
their Motions for Injunctive Relief and Attorneys’ Fees by May 15, 2013.
Dated at New Haven, Connecticut this 1st day of May, 2013.
/s/ Janet C. Hall
Janet C. Hall
United States District Judge
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