Joint Ownership Evictions | Religious Discrimination | Defamation

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usband Could Not Evict Sister-In-Law Renting The Marital Home From His Wife

Husband Could Not Evict
In Bernadotte v. Woolford, Woolford, petitioner’s sister-in-law, moved to dismiss a holdover summary proceeding arguing he, as the landlord, continued to receive rent after the holdover period voiding the petition on its face. The petitioner moved for summary judgment. The petitioner’s wife and Woolford are sisters, and reside together in the single family home that was the subject of the holdover. Not surprisingly, the wife and petitioner were in a divorce proceeding, and the wife rejected his attempts to evict her sister. The wife was not named as a party in the proceeding. The rent was actually paid to the wife, not the petitioner, and the wife maintained that she needs the rent paid by her sister while she and the petitioner “fight in Supreme Court over pensions, kids, and the Premises.” According to the wife, the rent is used to pay the mortgage.

The Court noted that the petitioner and his wife own the property as tenants-by-the-entirety. In New York, a tenancy by the entirety is a form of concurrent ownership that can only exist between a husband and wife, in which each party has a right of survivorship over the property and which neither party can terminate without the consent of the other.

The Court recognized that under the laws of New York, as tenants-by-the-entirety, either may lease or convey their interest to another, and that third person would become a tenant-in-common with the other tenant-by-the-entirety. Under the law, tenants in common are co-owners who each own a separate and undivided interest in the same real property and have an equal right to the possession and use of the property.

Although the Court also recognized that one tenant by the entirety “may alone maintain summary proceedings,” and therefore, the wife was not a necessary party to the proceeding, it nevertheless dismissed the proceeding, not because rent was paid, but because it was undisputed that the petitioner presently occupied the premises with his wife and respondent. The Court recognized the common law rule that a tenant-by-the-entirety may “maintain the summary proceeding to remove respondent from exclusive possession but not remove him from the premises. In other words, petitioner can obtain the right to occupy the premises in common with respondent and share occupancy with respondent,” but may not evict the other tenant-by-the-entirety or the tenant-in-common.

Thus, the Court held that “the best result that Petitioner can achieve is to terminate any exclusive occupancy of the Respondent. The wife has the absolute right to lease her interest to Respondent (her sister). Since Petitioner currently resides at the Premises, there is no relief available to Petitioner in this summary proceeding.”

Jewish Woman Treated Differently By Gym Because Of Attire, Was Not Unlawful Discrimination

Treated Differently By Gy m

In Jalal v. Lucille Roberts Health Clubs Inc., a federal District Court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that defendant’s policy barring skirts disparately impacted modest Jewish women.

According to the decision, the plaintiff, a Jewish woman, wears a knee-length, fitted skirt in public. She was a member of defendant Lucille Roberts gym chain since 2011, but her membership was terminated in 2015 after repeated instances in which defendant prevented her from exercising because she wore a skirt, deemed inappropriate exercise attire.

The lawsuit alleged discrimination in a place of public accommodation in violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act. Title II of the Civil Rights of Act of 1964 entitles all persons “to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation…without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” As the Court noted, the “overriding purpose of Title II was to remove the daily affront and humiliation involved in discriminatory denials of access to facilities ostensibly open to the general public.”

It was undisputed that membership at the defendant’s gyms is only available to women and that it requires its members to abide by various rules and regulations, including the following dresscode:

Dress appropriately. Flannel may be making a comeback this fall but it is still inappropriate gym attire. That also goes for denim and street clothes. This may be a ladies gym but you should still look your best. Studies show you work out longer, faster and harder when you have on a nice outfit. Studies also show you’re 75 percent more likely to run into your ex on a day when you wear embarrassing sweatpants and a stained t-shirt. Wear the right shoes. You must wear sneakers (the regular ones, not these new high-heeled kind) unless your class calls for dance shoes, socks or bare feet. That means no flip flops, sandals, boots, stilettos, flats or slippers. You laugh, but we’ve seen them all. Your chance of being fashionable is 100 percent. So is your chance of injury.

This dress code does not specifically prohibit skirts.

From her initial membership in 2011, the plaintiff had gone to Lucille Roberts’ gyms in Bay Shore, New York and Brooklyn, New York without incident for approximately two years. Each time the plaintiff went to a Lucille Roberts gym, she wore “a knee-length, fitted but comfortable skirt” while exercising. According to the plaintiff’s complaint the skirt neither interfered with gym equipment nor posed a danger in classes offered by the defendant. Nevertheless, when the plaintiff went to the Lucille Roberts location on Kings Highway in Brooklyn, New York, the manager told her that she could not exercise in a skirt. When she told the manager she must wear a skirt for religious reasons, the manager told her that she could not exercise in a skirt, but could instead wear a long t-shirt. When she switched to the Flatbush Avenue Lucille Roberts, she was told the same. Plaintiff continued to ignore the manager’s direction and her membership was terminated.

It was undisputed the defendant’s gyms are places of public accommodation within the meaning of the statute, but analyzing her Title II claim under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework for 42 USC §1981 claims, the Court decided plaintiff failed to allege facts plausibly supporting an inference of discriminatory animus.

“Here, plaintiff fails to allege facts plausibly supporting a minimal inference of discriminatory motivation. Although plaintiff contends that she was treated differently than other Lucille Roberts members on the basis of her religion, the factual allegations only suggest that she was treated differently because she insisted on wearing an article of clothing that, according to defendant, was inappropriate gym attire. That decision is defendant’s, and defendant’s alone. To the extent the parties dispute whether defendant’s ‘Member Rules and Regulations’ — namely, the lighthearted dress code — actually bans skirts, that is a contractual issue, and it does not give rise to a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Nowhere does the complaint allege that defendant selectively enforced its dress code against Jewish women. The complaint does not allege, for example, that defendant permitted non-Jewish women to exercise in skirts, nor does it allege that defendant allowed non-Jewish women to violate any other rule or regulation. Moreover, plaintiff has not pled any specific facts to support her claim that her religious practices of fended defendant’s ‘self-image of a health club filled with “strong, sexy and confident women.”’ And although plaintiff contends that defendant has “harassed” other modest Jewish women, plaintiff has not provided any information to support this conclusory allegation. Plaintiff thus fails to adequately allege discriminatory intent.”

The Court also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that, even absent intent, defendant’s policy barring skirts disparately impacted modest Jewish women. Disparate impact is a way to prove employment discrimination based on the effect of an employment policy or practice rather than the intent behind it. As the Court put it, “generally speaking, disparate impact claims do not require proof of discriminatory intent because disparate impact theory targets ‘practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation.’”However, the Court concluded “there is no indication, though, that claims grounded solely in disparate impact — and lacking any allegation of discriminatory intent — are cognizable under Title II.” So the Court rejected this claim as well.

They Say You’re Dead?

They Say You’re Dead

In Rosenthal v. MDX, an Appellate Court held that a New York doctor did not state a cause of action for defamation against a website operator who said the doctor was dead.

The doctor alleged that the defendant operated a website that repeatedly misidentified the plaintiff as deceased. The complaint sought to recover damages for defamation, negligence, and prima facie tort, but did not, however, allege any special damages. Special damages include economic losses such as loss of earnings, property damage and medical expenses. In New York, some statements are considered defamation per se, and in such cases a plaintiff does not have to allege or prove special damages. The damages are assumed. For example, the law presumes one is damaged from false facts that tend to injure a plaintiff in his or her business trade or profession, or charging that a plaintiff has a loathsome disease, or committed a crime.

Defamation is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of the party who was the subject of the communication. In New York, spoken defamation is called “slander” and defamation in other media is called “libel.” The Appellate Court recognized that a “false written statement is libelous per se, and thus actionable without allegation or proof of special damage, if it ‘tends to expose the plaintiff to public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace, or induce an evil opinion of him in the minds of right thinking persons, and to deprive him of their friendly intercourse in society.’ Contrary to the plaintiff’s contention, the defendant’s alleged act of misidentifying him as deceased does not fall within these definitions. Accordingly, the Supreme Court properly granted that branch of the defendant’s motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) to dismiss the cause of action alleging defamation.”

The Appellate Court also held that the Supreme Court properly dismissed the cause of action alleging negligence. “A negligent statement is not ‘actionable unless expressed directly, with knowledge or notice that it will be acted upon, to one to whom the author is bound by some relation of duty, arising out of a contract or otherwise, to act with care if he acts at all.’ Here, the plaintiff has not alleged the existence of any special relationship between the parties giving rise to a duty to speak with care.”

As for the cause of action sounding in “prima facie tort,” the Appellate Court noted that an “element of a prima facie tort cause of action is that the complaining party suffered specific and measurable loss, which requires an allegation of special damages. Since the plaintiff failed to allege any special damages, the Supreme Court properly granted that branch of the defendant’s motion which was pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) to dismiss the cause of action alleging prima facie tort.”

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