Nicholas Malfitano Jun. 28, 2016, 9:42am


PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit believes, as did a trial court, that the Lehigh County Housing Authority (LCHA) did not violate the Fair Housing Act (FHA) or Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) when it sent a Bethlehem man notice to leave the premises.

Judges Julio M. Fuentes, Thomas I. Vanaskie and Anthony J. Scirica opted to uphold the decision reached by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, that appellant Daniel Tilli was not subject to discrimination by the LCHA in this matter.

Tilli had rented an apartment in an LCHA-owned building for 17 years, as of 2014.

“In late 2014, LCHA sent Tilli a ‘notice to move’ from the building. Tilli asked to rent another apartment in the building (apartment number 204) but that request was denied,” the appellate court said. “In the amended complaint, Tilli claimed that the ‘notice to move’ and the denial of his request to rent apartment 204 was clear discrimination” in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also claimed that LCHA had retaliated against him ‘because of a complaint.”

Both parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment, with the LCHA including an affidavit from apartment manager Corinne MaDouse, asserting Tilli breached his lease by creating disturbances for other residents in the building over a nine-month period from March 2014 until the notice was sent the following December.

Oral argument was held in the case last December and the District Court found for the LCHA, leading Tilli to appeal.

The District Court averred it provided Tilli with significant assistance in crafting a response to the LCHA’s summary judgment motion, but still found it lacking.

“The District Court concluded that Tilli’s summary judgment motion was “devoid of any evidentiary support and that his filings in response to LCHA’s motion failed to contest MaDouse’s affidavit with any type of evidentiary support,” the Third Circuit said. “We agree with the District Court that summary judgment in favor of LCHA was warranted.”

“Here, LCHA provided evidence that (a) Tilli was directed to vacate his apartment solely because he had breached his lease by disturbing others in the building, (b) he never asked to move to apartment 204, and (c) apartment 204 was otherwise occupied during the relevant time period. Neither Tilli’s summary judgment motion nor his filings in response to LCHA’s cross-motion put forth any evidence that would enable a jury to reasonably find that LCHA discriminated or retaliated against him,” the Third Circuit said.

“In the same vein, Tilli’s appellate brief fails to cite any record evidence that might bolster his claims. Accordingly, there is no basis to disturb the District Court’s judgment,” the Third Circuit concluded.

The defendant is represented by Bernard T. Kwitowski of Thomas & Hafer, in Allentown.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 16-1012

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 5:14-cv-07395

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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