The proof necessary to establish a prima facie case under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 3601 et seq., also establishes a prima facie case of racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1982. In order to establish her prima facie case, plaintiff has to prove that:(1) she is a member of a racial minority;(2) she applied for and is qualified to rent an apartment or townhouse at the complex;(3) she is denied the opportunity to rent or to inspect or negotiate for the rental of a townhouse or apartment; and(4) the housing opportunity remains available.
Plaintiff potential tenant filed an action under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1982 and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), alleging discrimination by defendants, apartment complex owner, the apartment complex business and the apartment complex's employee. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff, awarding plaintiff $ 7,500 in compensatory damages and $ 50,000 in punitive damages from defendant apartment complex owner. Defendants appealed and the court affirmed the judgment.
Was evidence sufficient to show a prima facie case of of racial discrimination?
The court held that plaintiff had sustained a prima facie case by showing that she was a minority that was qualified to rent from defendant apartment complex, that she was denied the opportunity to rent or negotiate for a rental, and that the housing opportunity remained available. Defendants were not able to prove a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the rejection. The court held that statistical data offered by defendant was relevant but not conclusive. The court held that punitive damages against defendant apartment complex owner were appropriate because of defendant apartment complex owner's own discriminatory policies and his ratification of defendant employee's discriminatory procedures.