A reviewing court considering a trial court's ruling on summary judgment looks at the materials available to the judge for summary judgment purposes in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party to see whether, as a matter of law, they support a claim.
Plaintiff Commonwealth sued defendants, a landlord's agent and its principal after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination found defendants discriminated against plaintiff/intervenor housing subsidy recipient. The trial court entered summary judgment against the recipient, who appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court transferred the case from the Appeals Court. The trial court's judgment denying the recipient's partial summary judgment motion was reversed, its order granting summary judgment to the agent and its principal was vacated, and the case was remanded to the trial court to enter judgment for the recipient as to liability, and for further proceedings.
Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment in favor of defendants?
Evidence clearly tilted in favor of the subsidy recipient. The statute's "requirements" provision was not limited to providing "decent" housing, because the statute was amended to bar discrimination both because a prospective tenant had a housing subsidy voucher and because a landlord refused to abide by "requirements" of the housing subsidy program. The agent's refusal of the lease due to its termination "requirements" fell within this prohibition. Whether the agent had a discriminatory "animus" was irrelevant, as it was not required for a statutory violation, nor was there an exception for "substantial economic harm" to landlords. The agent was liable because it and the landlord were required not to discriminate based on a housing subsidy "requirement."