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Civil Right: Fair Housing Act-Familial Status Discrimination-Punitive Damages

Defendant appealed from the denial of his post-trial motion to set aside or reduce the jury’s punitive damages verdict. The government brought an enforcement action under the Fair Housing Act, alleging that defendant engaged in familial status discrimination against renters. The district court granted summary judgment for the government as to liability and submitted the issue of damages to the jury, which returned a verdict awarding compensatory and punitive damages.

Where defendant admitted to having five decades of experience as a landlord, the jury could disbelieve his claim that he was unaware that familial status discrimination was illegal and thus could find that defendant acted with at least reckless indifference to his tenants’ rights, supporting an award of punitive damages. The amount of punitive damages awarded was supported by the reprehensible nature of defendant’s conduct that threatened his tenants’ financial and physical health.

Stras, J., concurring: “Rescuing Fair Housing Act ‘defendants from bad outcomes that arise out of perfectly good procedures’ falls within Congress’s domain, not ours.”

Judgment is affirmed.

U.S. v. Rupp (MLW No. 79930/Case No. 22-1444 – 10 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Kelly, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Pitlyk, J. (Jay L. Kanzler, Jr., of St. Louis, MO for appellants; David A. Dimmitt, of St. Louis, MO on the brief) (Janea Lamar, of Washington, D.C. for appellee; Nicolas Y. Riley, of Washington, D.C. on the brief)


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