Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Brown v. Pfeiffer

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 27, 2019

Shatara Brown, Nikoe Lee, and Colleana Young, Plaintiffs,
v.
Reese Pfeiffer, Fruen & Pfeiffer LLP, Michael Fruen, and M Fruen Properties LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

          Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Shatara Brown's motion for a temporary restraining order enjoining Defendants from terminating Brown's lease of her home. (Dkt. 5.) For the reasons addressed below, the Court grants Brown's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Brown is a tenant of Defendant Reese Pfeiffer, acting on behalf of Defendants Fruen & Pfeiffer LLP, Michael Fruen, and M Fruen Properties LLC. Brown and two other tenants of Defendants allege that, in connection with their respective tenancies, Pfeiffer sexually harassed them by making several requests for sexual favors, as well as sexual advances and comments, towards them individually. Tenant-Plaintiffs allege that Pfeiffer retaliated against them because they refused to comply with his sexual harassment.

         On one occasion before she began renting from Pfeiffer, Brown asserts, “Pfeiffer ran his hand up and down [her] thigh, massaging her leg, ” while assisting Brown with completing documents needed for her to receive monetary assistance from Hennepin County. Pfeiffer continued to touch Brown's body and made sexually suggestive comments to her on several other occasions. He also told Brown that she could avoid paying certain fees and portions of rent in exchange for sexual favors because he would love to “fuck the shit out of [her].” Brown rejected each of Pfeiffer's requests for sexual favors.

         Brown also alleges that Pfeiffer attempted to overcharge her rent, security deposit, and other fees throughout her tenancy. Because Brown was unable to pay these additional charges, Pfeiffer filed an eviction action against her on July 17, 2019. Pfeiffer subsequently agreed to dismiss and expunge the action. Pfeiffer filed a second eviction action against Brown on September 16, 2019. Following a hearing, the Hennepin County Housing Court dismissed and expunged the action.

         On October 31, 2019, Pfeiffer provided Brown a notice of lease non-renewal, directing her to vacate the home by December 31, 2019. Pfeiffer subsequently filed a third eviction action against Brown on December 6, 2019, and a trial in that action currently is scheduled for January 15, 2020.

         Brown and two other tenants filed this action against Pfeiffer and his business affiliates-Fruen & Pfeiffer LLP, Michael Fruen, and M Fruen Properties LLC. Plaintiffs allege that, by sexually harassing them, Pfeiffer discriminated against them on the basis of sex, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minn. Stat. ch. 363A. Plaintiffs also allege negligent supervision under Minnesota common law. Brown seeks a temporary restraining order enjoining Defendants from terminating her lease. This Court issued a briefing schedule on December 20, 2019, and ordered Defendants to file a response by December 26, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. Defendants failed to file a response within the time period permitted.

         ANALYSIS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 authorizes a district court to grant injunctive relief in the form of a temporary restraining order. When determining whether a temporary restraining order is warranted, a district court considers four factors: (1) the probability that the movant will succeed on the merits, (2) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant, (3) the balance between this harm and the injury that an injunction would inflict on other parties, and (4) the public interest. Dataphase Sys., Inc. v. C L Sys., Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981). The burden to establish that injunctive relief should be granted rests with the movant. Watkins Inc. v. Lewis, 346 F.3d 841, 844 (8th Cir. 2003). The purpose of a temporary restraining order is to maintain the status quo. Kelley v. First Westroads Bank, 840 F.2d 554, 558 (8th Cir. 1988).

         I. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

         Brown must demonstrate that she is likely to succeed on the merits of her claims. See Dataphase, 640 F.2d at 114. However, at this stage of the proceedings, the Court need not assess Brown's probability of success on the merits “with mathematical precision.” Gen. Mills, Inc. v. Kellogg Co., 824 F.2d 622, 624 (8th Cir. 1987). And Brown need not establish that she ultimately will win or that a greater-than-50-percent likelihood of success exists. See Glenwood Bridge, Inc. v. City of Minneapolis, 940 F.2d 367, 371 (8th Cir. 1991); Dataphase, 640 F.2d at 113. To satisfy this prong of the Dataphase test, Brown only needs to demonstrate that she is likely to succeed on one of her claims. See United Healthcare Ins. Co. v. AdvancePCS, 316 F.3d 737, 742-43 (8th Cir. 2002).

         To prevail on a sexual-harassment claim under the Fair Housing Act or the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Brown must prove that Pfeiffer created “a hostile housing environment” or engaged in “quid pro quo sexual harassment.” United States v. Hurt, 676 F.3d 649, 654 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Quigley v. Winter, 598 F.3d 938, 946-47 (8th Cir. 2010)). Brown maintains that her quid pro quo sexual-harassment claim is likely to succeed. Quid pro quo sexual harassment “occurs when housing benefits are explicitly or implicitly conditioned on sexual favors.” Quigley, 598 F.3d at 947 (internal quotation marks omitted). To prove quid pro quo sexual harassment, a plaintiff must establish that (1) she was a member of a protected class, (2) she was subjected to unwanted requests for sexual favors, (3) the harassment was based on sex, and (4) her submission to the unwanted advances was an express or implied condition of receiving housing benefits. See id.

         Brown alleges that Pfeiffer told her that she could avoid paying a portion of her rent or other lease-related fees if he could “fuck the shit out of [her].” If proven, Pfeiffer's statement demonstrates that Pfeiffer subjected Brown to a request for a sexual favor, this harassment was based on sex, and Brown's submission to the sexual request was an express condition of receiving housing benefits, namely relief from her rent obligation. Based on this record, Brown has established that her claim for quid pro quo ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.