Monday, November 25, 2013

Human Rights Commission v. LaBrie, Inc. case brief

Human Rights Commission v. LaBrie, Inc. case brief summary
668 A. 2d 659 (Vt. 1995)


CASE SYNOPSIS
The Washington Superior Court (Vermont), entered a judgment against defendant mobile home park owners and in favor of plaintiff couple after having found that the owners violated the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act (Act), Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, §§ 4500-4507, specifically, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, § 4503(a)(1)-(3), by discriminating against persons with one or more minor children. The mobile home park owners appealed.

CASE FACTS
When the couple purchased their mobile home in the owners' park in 1986, they were childless. When their son was born in 1989, the owners reminded them that under their lease, only two occupants were permitted per unit and began eviction proceedings. The Human Rights Commission commenced an action against the owners for violating the Act. The owners contended an occupancy limit was necessary due to limited water and septic capacity, but the trial court concluded the couple was evicted due to the presence of a minor child, and awarded damages, expenses, attorney fees, and civil penalties.

DISCUSSION

  • On appeal, the court affirmed with one exception as to attorney fees. 
  • The court found that there was no clear error on the trial court's part in finding an intent to discriminate given evidence that the owners continued a discriminatory practice that had existed prior to the enactment of the Act in 1989 and in concluding that the occupancy limit was unreasonable. 
  • Further, no expert testimony was required to establish the wife's claim for emotional distress. 
  • The attorney fees, though not excess, required remand for deduction of time spent reconstructing time sheets.

CONCLUSION
The judgment of the trial court was affirmed in all respects except as to the award of attorney fees. The case was remanded for deduction of the attorney's time spent reconstructing time sheets.

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