Nicolari v. Harbour Landing Condominium Association Inc.
To establish a prima facie case under the Fair Housing Act, a plaintiff may be required to prove that animus against a protected group is a significant factor in decision making. In 2006, the plaintiff, Patricia Nicolari, purchased a condominium, which was sold with the restriction that Nicolari remediate pet and mold contamination and refrain from additional renovations, until remediation was finished. Nicolari arranged to remove and replace all the flooring, subflooring, plumbing and tile. At the end of 2007, ServPro performed mold remediation services. In March 2008, the condominium board voted to fine Nicolari $68,760, for attorneys' fees and costs of inspection and because Nicolari allegedly failed to promptly remediate and arranged to make unauthorized renovations. Nicolari refused to pay, and the condominium association filed suit in New Haven Superior Court. Judge Robert Berdon found that although the condominium association failed to provide notice and the opportunity to be heard, it was entitled to $9,035. Nicolari filed suit in District Court against the condo association and its board, alleging discrimination on the basis of gender, marital status and sexual orientation. One unit owner alleged that every time that Nicolari complied with the board's requests, the board changed its requests to require additional work. It is unlawful "[t]o discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling . . . because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin," pursuant to the Fair Housing Act. The District Court found that Nicolari failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. She was not similarly situated to married, heterosexual couples who purchased units that were not contaminated. At no point prior to the end of 2007, when ServPro issued a report, did any inspector certify that contamination had been successfully remediated. A reasonable jury could not infer discriminatory animus as a result of the board's notice or find that fines for failure to comply constituted discrimination. Three individuals asserted that the board never discussed Nicolari's marital status or sexual orientation. The court granted judgment to the defendants on Fair Housing Act claims.