Trial In Weeks If Case Does Not Settle.
Could Previous Board Face Litigation For Handling Of Incident Leading To Suit? Former Board Member Quit Claimed House To Spouse.
BY: STAFF REPORT | BocaNewsNow.com
DELRAY BEACH, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Copyright © 2021 MetroDesk Media, LLC) — The $7M Federal Housing Discrimination lawsuit against the Seven Bridges HOA is heading towards its second day of settlement talks on Friday. While settlement conferences are routine in litigation, this is notable for two reasons: previous settlement conferences have failed to reach a resolution, and the parties spent 3 hours and 55 minutes meeting with Federal Magistrate Dave Lee Brannon on Wednesday. (See update, below).
If settlement isn’t reached, the case is set for trial in early June. Despite claims made repeatedly by previous members of the Seven Bridges Board of Directors that the case would be thrown out on summary judgement, U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks has not ruled on the summary judgement motion made by Seven Bridges in January. Legal observers say it is highly unlikely, although not impossible, that Judge Middlebrooks would have had the case proceed through months of litigation time and expense if he planned to throw it out.
The ongoing lawsuit stems from allegations made by Seven Bridges Homeowner Deborah LaGrasso that several “tennis league” women verbally assaulted her children while playing tennis on the community’s tennis courts.
LaGrasso was accused of physically attacking one of the women, although there is apparently no video evidence that proves whether or not a physical altercation took place. We published the video that does exist. The incident led to sanctions against LaGrasso by the HOA. Several months later, after LaGrasso is believed to have posted her opinions about the HOA on an anonymous Facebook page, LaGrasso and Seven Bridges homeowner Rachel Tannenholz allegedly made derogatory comments about the other on social media. The HOA once again sanctioned LaGrasso, including for writing anti-Semitic and derogatory comments online. When LaGrasso complained to the HOA about Tannenholz, however, the Board of Directors did not sanction her. Among the complaints allegedly ignored by the Board: LaGrasso’s claim that Tannenholz told her to move to a community that isn’t primarily Jewish.
The sanctions imposed: $5,000 and a year long ban from using amenities in the Seven Bridges community.
LaGrasso filed a federal lawsuit claiming religious discrimination by the HOA and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Tannenholz. She argued it’s unfair that she, as a non-Jew, was sanctioned while Tannenholz was not. While the lawsuit continues against the Seven Bridges Homeowners Association, Federal Judge Donald Middlebrooks said that Tannenholz is not a proper party to the “Fair Housing Act” discrimination lawsuit. LaGrasso’s claims against her were dismissed.
But the HOA still faces the $7M claim. Among the issues: the allegation that no fining schedule existed before a board member crafted one in the process of punishing LaGrasso.
BocaNewsNow.com has learned that if LaGrasso is successful in her claim against the HOA, homeowners may file a lawsuit against the previous board of directors. One former board member quit claimed — or transferred — their home to their spouse in November, although that former board member told BocaNewsNow.com that it has nothing to do with the ongoing litigation.
LaGrasso is represented locally by attorney Scott Weires, in addition to the law firm of Chehardy, Sherman, Williams, Recile, Stakleum and Hayes which is based in Louisiana. The firm is known for complex litigation matters.
The Seven Bridges HOA is represented by Vernis and Bowling in North Palm Beach.
A $7M judgement — insurance coverage aside — would cost each of the 801 homes in Seven Bridges $8,749.07.
UPDATE: 6:52 p.m. Thursday, May 13th: Friday’s settlement conference has just been rescheduled, but notably NOT canceled. Date to be determined.
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