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Poursaied v. Summermill At Falls River-Banner Apartment Buildings

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

February 14, 2018



          James E. Gates, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This case comes before the court on the motion (D.E. 16) by defendant Summermill at Falls River Apartments, LLC (“defendant”) to dismiss the complaint of pro se plaintiff Shahnaz Poursaied (“plaintiff”) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff opposes the motion.[1] It was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for issuance of a memorandum and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) (see D.E. 22) and is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, it will be recommended that defendant's motion to dismiss be allowed in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In her complaint (D.E. 1), filed 2 March 2017, plaintiff alleges as follows:

         On 1 December 2016, plaintiff moved into an apartment complex in Raleigh, North Carolina owned by defendant.[2] Compl. 2. From the time plaintiff moved into her apartment, she encountered a serious issue of noise in her apartment that sounded primarily like a toilet flushing from her upstairs neighbor, but at times included a water pump sound. Id. The noise was so loud and so frequent that it was making the apartment unbearable for plaintiff to live in. Id. at 2-3. The noise caused plaintiff to suffer ear pain and severe anxiety. Id. at 3. Plaintiff complained to the landlord, and not only were her complaints not resolved, but each complaint made the situation worse. Id. Plaintiff also complained to the police about the noise, and the police questioned why she was given a home so near to sewage, but did not investigate further. Id.

         In addition, defendant shared information with plaintiff's sister that it learned from plaintiff, apparently regarding the purported noise problem. Id. Plaintiff did not give defendant permission to share the information with her sister, who was not then staying with plaintiff.[3] Id.

         On 9 January 2017, plaintiff stopped in front of her mailbox to check her mail. Id. at 4. It snowed that day and defendant failed to clear the snow and ice, causing plaintiff to slip and fall on her head. Id. The fall caused plaintiff severe pain. Id. Again, she complained to the police and the apartment manager. Id. On 12 January 2017, plaintiff visited the hospital emergency department and was diagnosed with a concussion, chest contusion, [4] and neck injury. Id. at 5. She was advised to stay home on bedrest. Id. Plaintiff informed the apartment manager of her injuries and was told that defendant's insurance company would be notified. Id. The insurance company requested plaintiff's bill and claims, which plaintiff provided on 23 February 2017. Id. The hospital bill remains unpaid and, in addition, plaintiff suffered lost wages and headaches arising from the injury. Id. Plaintiff was forced to move from the apartment, incur moving expenses, and give up her puppy, which she had bought for $1, 000.00. Id. at 6.

         In her complaint, plaintiff asserts claims for (1) violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-42(a), the North Carolina Residential Rental Agreement Act (“RRAA”); (2) violation of fair housing law; (3) violation of privacy law; and (4) negligence. Id. at 2. She seeks damages in the amount of $150, 000.00 for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other alleged losses. Id. at 4. Defendant filed an answer denying the material allegations in plaintiff's complaint and a counterclaim seeking $887.89 allegedly owed as a result of plaintiff's early termination of her lease. Ans. and Am. Ctrclm. (D.E. 11).[5]


         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of claims for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only if “it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim entitling him to relief.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). Ordinarily, the complaint need contain simply “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, a complaint is insufficient if it offers merely “labels and conclusions, ” “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” or “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff alleges factual content “that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged” and shows more than “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 425 (4th Cir. 2015) (“[I]t is not our task at the motion-to-dismiss stage to determine ‘whether a lawful alternative explanation appear[s] more likely' from the facts of the complaint.” (quoting Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015))), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 2485 (2016).

         In analyzing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations of the challenged complaint and view those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); see also Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs, 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005) (court must accept as true all factual allegations of the complaint). All reasonable factual inferences from the allegations must be drawn in plaintiff's favor. Edwards, 178 F.3d at 244. However, bare assertions of legal conclusions or formulaic recitations of the elements of a claim are not entitled to be assumed true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. Complaints filed by pro se plaintiffs are entitled to liberal construction. Kerr v. Marshall Univ. Bd. of Governors, 824 F.3d 62, 72 (4th Cir. 2016) (“We are mindful of our obligation to liberally construe a pro se complaint.”); Jehovah v. Clarke, 798 F.3d 169, 176 (4th Cir. 2015) (“We must construe pro se complaints liberally . . . and [l]iberal construction of the pleadings is particularly appropriate where, as here, there is a pro se complaint raising civil rights issues.” (citations omitted)); White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 724 (4th Cir. 1989) (“Pro se complaints are to be read liberally”). “Documents attached to the complaint or motion may be considered if ‘they are integral to the complaint and authentic.'” Ferebee v. Dep't of Human Relations Comm., No. CV TDC-16-3803, 2018 WL 731682, at *2 (D. Md. 5 Feb. 2018) (quoting Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007))).

         III. ANALYSIS

         As noted, plaintiff asserts claims for violation of the RRAA, violation of fair housing law, violation of privacy law, and negligence. By its motion, defendant seeks dismissal of all of plaintiff's claims. The court will address each claim in turn below.

         A. RRAA Claim

         The RRAA, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-38 et seq., governs certain obligations of landlords and tenants. Among other things, the RRAA requires a landlord to:

(1) Comply with the current applicable building and housing codes, whether enacted before or after October 1, 1977, to the extent required by the operation of such codes; no new requirement is imposed by this subdivision (a)(1) if a structure is exempt from a current building code.
(2) Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit ...

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