Manhattan jury awards $25,000 to divorced father in first case under New York family status law

Last November, a jury in Manhattan, New York awarded $25,000 to Mauro Filicori, a tenant who claimed that his landlord, Marguerite Jossel, discriminated against him because he had a young daughter. Filicori filed his suit under New York's Real Propert y Law Section 236, a statute which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of family status.

Filicori, a 54-year-old graphic designer, testified that, from 1975 to 1985, he and Jossel had an amicable landlord-tenant relationship. During those ten years, Filicori never had any problems in his tenancy. After 1985, the year his daughter was born, Filicori said that Jossel set out on a vicious campaign to forcefully remove him from his apartment.

Filicori testified that Jossel brought frivolous (and unsuccessful) eviction proceedings against him and sought to deny him access to the building's terrace. She also continually harassed him and made his home unsafe for his daughter by refusing several times to install window guards. Filicori said that Jossel frequently harassed him for more than eight years.

Jossel argued that she did not discriminate against Filicori and that the family status provisions of the New York law that the suit was filed under did not apply because Filicori was divorced and did not have sole custody of his daughter. Judge Norman Ryp ruled against that argument.

Jossel admitted that she did try to evict Filicori. She claimed, however, that she did not try to evict him because of his daughter. She said that she wanted to reclaim the apartment for her own personal use. Jossel also said she did not want to install the window guards in Filicori's apartment because his daughter did not live there all of the time. Filicori produced evidence that he had joint physical custody of his daughter and that she did spend a lot of time with him.

According to the New York Jury Verdict Reporter, the trial took eight days and the six person jury, comprised of three men and three women, took only an hour to deliberate before awarding Filicori $25,000. The jury was unanimous in its decision.