Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ex. rel. Palmer v. Burkamp
A court can assess a civil penalty, award damages for emotional distress and award attorneys' fees, as a result of evidence that a landlord allegedly refused to accept a prospective tenant's state-issued security deposit guarantee. The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities filed a civil claim on behalf of Becky Palmer, and the Superior Court found that the CHRO proved, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant landlord allegedly called the state a "deadbeat" and refused to accept Palmer's state-issued security deposit guaranty. Palmer alleged that she experienced emotional distress as a result of the defendant's rejection in front of her children and a third party. The court credited Palmer's claim that she was worried about becoming homeless. The court awarded Palmer non-economic damages for emotional distress in the amount of $10,000. The court also assessed a civil penalty, because the defendant landlord was not remorseful and allegedly referred to the State of Connecticut as a "deadbeat." The court awarded the CHRO $10,000, the maximum amount, "to punish and deter such discriminatory conduct." The court approved the hourly rates of Attorneys Greg Kirschner, Timothy Bennett-Smyth, Brian Smith, Joel Norwood and Evan Seaman. The court did not award attorneys' fees for the damages phase of trial. The defendant landlord timely objected that legal issues were not complex and that bifurcation of the trial into two separate parts was not efficient. In retrospect, the court agreed with the defendant that bifurcation was not required. The court awarded attorneys' fees of $32,895 to the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and $56,893 to Robinson & Cole, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §46a-86(c).