Plaintiffs Andrew Ribotto and Christina Powers moved into an apartment building at 254 Divisadero in San Francisco in March 2009. Defendant Graystone Partners LP purchased the building in April 2013 and discovered that Ms. Powers was living there in violation of the lease that plaintiff Andrew Ribotto had signed with the prior owner of the property. After assuming control of the property, Graystone attempted to enforce the lease provisions against the plaintiffs. In response, plaintiffs claimed that they were domestic partners and that Graystone was discriminating against their marital status by filing the eviction action. Graystone ultimately dismissed the unlawful detainer suit after it was determined that the prior landlord may have been aware that Ms. Powers had been living there in violation of the lease and may have waived their right to evict the plaintiffs.
In addition to claiming that Graystone failed to respond to their complaint of marital discrimination, plaintiffs also claimed that Graystone conducted illegal audio surveillance of them and took illegal photographs of the inside of their unit in order to gain evidence against the plaintiffs in the eviction action. Plaintiffs claimed 127 instances of illegal audio surveillance by Graystone and a $4,000 penalty for each infraction. Plaintiffs also claimed that Graystone conducted a deliberately invasive construction project to harass and retaliate against the plaintiffs. In addition to suing Graystone for marital discrimination in violation of Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), they also sued for the Unruh Act, Invasion of Privacy, Illegal Audio Surveillance, and Breach of Quiet Enjoyment. Plaintiffs demanded in excess of $1.4 million in damages against Graystone in addition to treble damages, statutory penalties and punitive damages. Graystone denied any and all liability for all of plaintiffs’ causes of action and disputed the complete nature and extent of plaintiffs’ claimed damages.
On December 17, 2015, Ericksen Arbuthnot’s trial team, led by partners Joseph J. Minioza and Andrew Kozlow, achieved a unanimous defense verdict on plaintiffs’ causes of action for Invasion of Privacy, Illegal Audio Surveillance and Breach of Quiet Enjoyment. Although the jury found liability against Graystone for the FEHA and Unruh Act causes of action, the jury only awarded $11,970.00 in total to the plaintiffs and did not award non-economic damages, treble damages, or any statutory penalty against Graystone. The verdict is especially significant in the fact that plaintiffs’ counsel served two CCP Section 998 offers to compromise to Graystone totaling over $1.4 million which Graystone rejected.
The case tried to verdict is Andrew Ribotto and Christina Powers v. Graystone Partners, LP (San Francisco County Superior Court case no. CGC-14-538626). Joseph J. Minioza and Andrew Kozlow of Ericksen Arbuthnot represented Defendant Graystone Partners LP, along with co-counsel David Wasserman of Wasserman Stern in San Francisco. The trial judge was the Honorable Joseph Quinn in Department 318 of the San Francisco County Superior Court. Plaintiffs’ counsel was Philip Horne, Esq. of San Francisco.
Joseph J. (J.J.) Minioza and Andrew Kozlow are partners in the Oakland/Concord office. They can be reached at 510.832.7770. Mr. Minioza can also be reached at ; Mr. Kozlow may also be reached at .