United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
J. BARBIER, UNITED STATfES) DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment
(Rec. Doc. 31) filed by Defendant, Swan
River LLC (“Swan River”), an opposition thereto
(Rec. Doc. 33) filed by Plaintiff, Deandra Pittman
(“Plaintiff”), and a reply (Rec. Doc. 38) by Swan
River. Having considered the motions and legal memoranda, the
record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that Swan
River's motion for summary judgment should be
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
instant litigation arises out of Plaintiff's lease
dispute with Swan River. Swan River operates facilities in
New Orleans in which it leases space to small business
owners. Plaintiff was a lessee at one of Swan
River's facilities, located at 2940 Canal Street
(“the Facility”). Plaintiff entered into a
year-long lease with Swan River on February 22, 2012. The
lease contained no automatic renewal provisions. (Rec. Doc.
33-2). Upon the expiration of that lease, Plaintiff continued
to operate her business out of the Facility with the
permission of Swan River. Thus, on February 23, 2013
Plaintiff's lease became a reconducted lease and operated
as such for the next 29 months. See La. Civ. Code.
22, 2015, Alexandra Porteous (“Porteous”), a
member and manager of Swan River, alerted Plaintiff via email
that Swan River was going to be executing new leases
beginning on September 1, 2015 and invited her to enter into
one. (Rec. Doc. 31-5). Accompanying Swan River's offer to
lease was a requirement that Plaintiff sign a “key
agreement” and promise not to have any employees.
Porteous told Plaintiff these restrictions were due to
security concerns and were being required of all potential
lessees. (Rec. Doc. 31-5). After several emails back and
forth, it became clear Plaintiff believed Swan River was only
imposing these new restrictions because Plaintiff had hired
an African-American employee named Mark Percy
(“Percy”). Plaintiff alleged there was never an
issue with her hiring employees and giving out keys before
she hired Percy. Id.
assured Plaintiff this was not the case, and that all lessees
were required to sign a new lease and to abide by the
restrictions. On July 31, 2015, Plaintiff wrote, “I
will not be renewing a lease under your newfound conditions.
Rent will be paid before the 3rd of the month as usual and I
will evacuate the premises under duress by September 1,
2015.” (Rec. Doc. 31-5).
August 30th, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action in New
Orleans First City Court. As service was not accomplished
until August 30th, 2017, Swan River timely removed the case
to this Court on September 15th, 2017. Plaintiff's
original state court petition alleged general violations of
federal and state anti-discrimination law, as well as a state
law claim for constructive eviction. On August 13, 2018, the
Court ordered Plaintiff to amend her complaint to state with
more precision the federal laws she states a claim under.
(Rec. Doc. 15). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, filed
on August 28, 2018, asked for relief under the Fourteenth
Amendment, Title VII, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Rec. Doc.
April 9, 2019, the Court issued an Order and Reasons (Rec.
Doc. 24) granting Swan River's Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Rec. Doc. 18). The Court
dismissed Plaintiff's Title VII and Fourteenth Amendment
claims in their entirety, but gave Plaintiff leave to file a
Second Amended Complaint supporting her claim for relief
under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff filed her Second
Amended Complaint on April 18, 2019, and it is that Second
Amended Complaint that is the subject of Swan River's
present Motion for Summary Judgment.
River argues it is entitled to summary judgment on
Plaintiff's Section 1981 claims for two reasons. First,
it argues Plaintiff's Section 1981 claims are barred by
the relevant statute of limitations. In the alternative, Swan
River maintains that the evidence in the record does not
support Plaintiff's intentional discrimination claims
under Section 1981.
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56); Little
v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).
When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact
exists, a court considers “all of the evidence in the
record but refrains from making credibility determinations or
weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co.
v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398
(5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor
of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary
judgment with conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated
assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A court
ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable jury
could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.
dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear
the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must
come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a
directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at
trial.'” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v.
Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir.
1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by
either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or
“showing that the moving party's evidence is so
sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to
return a verdict in favor of the moving party.”
Id. at 1265.
dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will
bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may
satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence
in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential
element of the nonmoving party's claim. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the
nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to
evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue
exists. See Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest