United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
Kenneth D. Bell United States District Judge
action Plaintiffs Keith Colson and Jennifer Ziccardi-Colson
(together the “Colsons”) allege that Defendants
violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981 by discriminating against the
Colsons on the basis of their race when the Colsons were
denied an opportunity to lease a campsite at the Defendant
Wildlife Woods Campground, Inc. (the
“Campground”). Now before the Court are
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 15) and
Motion for Sanctions (Doc. No. 21).
Court has carefully considered these motions and the
parties' briefs and exhibits and heard oral argument on
the motions from the parties' counsel on January 8, 2020.
For the reasons discussed below, the Court will
GRANT Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment but will DENY their Motion for
Sanctions. Defendants are entitled to summary judgment
because Plaintiffs have not presented evidence from which a
reasonable jury could find that Defendant Wayne Turner knew
Plaintiffs' race when he denied their application for
membership in the Campground. However, the Court finds that
the alleged conduct of the Campgrounds' employees,
Defendants' abrupt refusal to provide Plaintiffs
information about the reasons for the denial of their
membership application and potential inconsistencies in the
evidence raised suspicions of racial discrimination that
reasonably supported the filing and pursuit of this
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Variety Stores, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 888
F.3d 651, 659 (4th Cir. 2018) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)).
See United States, f/u/b Modern Mosaic, LTD v. Turner
Construction Co., et al., __F.3d __, 2019 WL 7174550
(4th Cir. 2019). A factual dispute is considered genuine
“if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
“A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law.” Vannoy v.
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, 827 F.3d 296, 300 (4th
Cir. 2016) (quoting Libertarian Party of Va. v.
Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013)).
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact
through citations to the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, admissions or affidavits in the record.
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986); Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir.
2003). “The burden on the moving party
may be discharged by ‘showing' ... an absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. Once this initial burden
is met, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party. The
nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Id.
at 322 n.3. The nonmoving party may not rely upon mere
allegations or denials of allegations in his pleadings to
defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 324.
determining if summary judgment is appropriate, “courts
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and refrain from weigh[ing] the evidence or
mak[ing] credibility determinations.” Variety
Stores, 888 F.3d at 659 (internal quotation marks
omitted) (quoting Lee v. Town of Seaboard, 863 F.3d
323, 327 (4th Cir. 2017)); see Modern Mosaic at *2.
“Summary judgment cannot be granted merely because the
court believes that the movant will prevail if the action is
tried on the merits.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office
of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015)
(quoting 10A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller et
al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 2728 (3d
“[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a
rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there
is no genuine issue for trial.” Ricci v.
DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (internal citations
omitted). “Only disputes over facts that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that
are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Also, the mere argued
existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion. Id. If the evidence is
merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary
judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249-50.
end, the question posed by a summary judgment motion is
whether the evidence as applied to the governing legal rules
“is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” Id. at 252.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY 
Colsons, who are an interracial couple, wanted to purchase a
camper which was permanently located on a leased site at the
Wildlife Woods campground. The camper was owned by Rick and
Regina Hampton, who are white friends of the Colsons. The
Colsons wanted to use the campsite for recreational purposes
and for convenient temporary housing for Plaintiff
Ziccardi-Colson, a nurse who works in a hospital not far from
Colson visited the property a total of three times-once by
himself, and the other two times with Ms. Ziccardi-Colson. On
or around May 31, 2015, Mr. Colson made his initial visit by
himself to the Campground to examine the Wildlife Woods
property as a whole. (Keith Colson Dep. 74:7). Around June
10, 2015, both Mr. Colson and Mrs. Ziccardi-Colson visited
the campground to look at the camper owned by the Hamptons as
well as view the rest of the site. While on the property, the
Plaintiffs stopped by the office. Only Mr. Colson went into
the office, while Mrs. Ziccardi-Colson remained in the car.
There, Mr. Colson spoke to Jane McNealy, a white female
employee. (Keith Colson Dep. 109:2-14) The Colsons then drove
around the campsite in search of the lot.
also decided on that date to explore the opportunity to
acquire other properties. While the Plaintiffs were driving
around, they noticed several "For Sale" signs on
properties and circled the available lots on a map of the
property. (Plaintiffs Ex. 3). When the Plaintiffs arrived
back at the office, they allegedly were met with disdain by
an older white woman who was an employee of Wildlife Woods
and a white male who glared at them. When Plaintiff
Ziccardi-Colson inquired about properties that were listed
for sale in the sales book, the employee allegedly stated in
a contemptuous manner that each of the properties had been
sold. When Plaintiff Ziccardi-Colson inquired about a boat
for sale that was displayed on the dry erase board, McNealy
quickly wiped the board with her hand and said in a demeaning
manner that the boat had been sold as well. (Keith Colson
Dep. 89:20-92:10; Ziccardi-Colson 46:1; 47:44).
12, 2015, the Colsons returned to Wildlife Woods to confirm
the availability of other campsites and to look at Lot No.
148, which the Hamptons owned. After viewing the camper and
campsite, the Colsons left the property. There is no evidence
that either Wayne or Margaret Turner were in the office or
otherwise met or saw the Colsons during their various visits
to the Campground.
15, 2015, the Colsons and the Hamptons negotiated a price for
the camper, and Keith Colson submitted a Membership
Application by fax to the Campground. (Keith Colson Dep.
55:8-56:9). The application does not ask for the race of the
applicant and the Colsons did not indicate their race on the
application. After receiving Mr. Colson's application,
the Campground's office faxed it to Wayne Turner, who
Defendants claim is the sole decision-maker concerning
whether to grant or deny membership applications submitted to
the Campground. (Wayne Turner (“Turner”) Dec.
testified that in evaluating the Colson's application,
Mr. Turner followed the same protocol he previously followed
with all membership applications, which was to ask the
Campground's security officer, Robert Pruette, who also
is a deputy with the Catawba County Sheriff's Department,
to run a “background check” on both Plaintiffs.
(Turner Dec. ¶¶ 5-7, 10-11). Mr. Turner says that
he believes that if someone cannot follow the rules of the
road or the State, they are unlikely to follow the rules of
the Campground. (Turner Dec. ¶¶ 11, 12). Plaintiffs
have not presented evidence that disputes either that Mr.
Turner is the sole decisionmaker or the consistency of his
process for approving Campground membership applications.
running a background check, Deputy Pruette advised Mr. Turner
that Mr. Colson had a number of traffic offenses and that Ms.
Ziccardi-Colson's record had been sealed in New York.
(Turner Dec. ¶ 10; Declaration of Robert Pruette
(“Pruette Dec.”) ¶ 4). Deputy Pruette
explained that he did not know why Ms. Ziccardi-Colson's
record was sealed, only that it must be for some reason.
(Id.). Mr. Turner testified that as a result of
these background check issues, he denied Plaintiffs'
membership application. (Turner Dec. ¶¶
10-12). Mr. Turner claims that he had never met or
seen either Plaintiff before his denial of their application
and did not know their race at that time. ...