Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

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.

United States v. Cao

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 29, 2019

THONG CAO, Individually and d/b/a CAO PROPERTIES & RENTALS, MAI CAO, VAN T. LE, and TONG NGUYEN, Defendants.



         Plaintiff United States of America filed suit against Defendants Thong Cao, individually and doing business as Cao Properties and Rentals; Mai Cao; Van T. Le; and Tong Nguyen. The Caos, and their business, are the only Defendants remaining in the case. Plaintiff brings suit under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, alleging that Thong Cao engaged in severe and pervasive sexual harassment against multiple women whom were tenants in rental units owned by Defendants.

         Defendant Mai Cao now moves the Court to grant partial summary judgment in her favor (Doc. 56). She asserts that she is not vicariously liable for Thong Cao's misconduct because there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that she acted as Thong Cao's principal. Because the Court finds that genuine issues of material fact exist, the Court denies Defendant's motion.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         Plaintiff United States alleges that Defendant Thong Cao engaged in sexual harassment of female tenants of properties that he owned and/or managed between 2009 and 2014. Defendant Mai Cao solely owned, or co-owned with Thong Cao, several properties at which the harassment occurred. Thong and Mai Cao are married. Thong Cao was the ultimate decision maker for all aspects of the management of the residential rental properties during the time that he and/or Mai Cao owned them, including but not limited to, accepting or rejecting prospective tenants, setting rates for rent and security deposits, collecting rent, and performing evictions.

         Mai Cao performed accounting and bookkeeping functions for the rental properties. Rental income from the properties that Mai Cao solely owned or co-owned with Thong Cao was used jointly by Thong and Mai Cao and reported on tax returns filed jointly by Thong and Mai Cao. The Cao's made decisions regarding evictions together. Defendant Mai Cao now moves for partial summary judgment asserting that she is not vicariously liable because she was simply a passive owner of some of the properties at issue.[2]

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[3] The movant bears the initial burden of proof and must show the lack of evidence on an essential element of the claim.[4] If the movant carries its initial burden, the nonmovant may not simply rest on its pleading but must instead “set forth specific facts” that would be admissible in evidence in the event of trial from which a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant.[5] These facts must be clearly identified through affidavits, deposition transcripts, or incorporated exhibits- conclusory allegations alone cannot survive a motion for summary judgment.[6] The Court views all evidence and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.[7]

         III. Analysis

         The FHA provides for vicarious liability.[8] “A person is vicariously liable for a discriminatory housing practice by the person's agent or employee, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known of the conduct that resulted in a discriminatory housing practice, consistent with agency law.”[9] “It is well established that traditional vicarious liability rules ordinarily make principals or employers vicariously liable for acts of their agents or employees in the scope of their authority or employment.”[10] “While sexual harassment committed by an agent is typically not considered within the scope of his authority, there is an exception to this rule. A principal may be vicariously liable where the agent ‘was aided in accomplishing the tort by the existence of the agency relationship.' ”[11] Generally, it is a question of fact as to whether an agency relationship exists.[12]

         Here, Defendant Mai Cao argues that there is no evidence that she was Thong Cao's principal because Thong Cao was the ultimate decision maker. Indeed, the evidence demonstrates that Thong Cao managed the properties. Yet, courts have routinely determined in similar circumstances that property owners may be vicariously liable under the FHA when the property manager used the agency relationship to facilitate the harassment.[13] Thus, although Thong Cao performed the management responsibilities, Mai Cao's status as an owner of the property exposes her to vicarious liability by virtue of the owner-manager agency relationship.[14]

         Furthermore, there is evidence that Mai Cao performed bookkeeping functions and shared in the rental income. There is also evidence that Mai and Thong Cao made decisions regarding evictions together. Thus, there is evidence demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact as to how the agency relationship worked. In sum, issues of fact preclude summary judgment.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant Mai Cao's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 56) is DENIED.

         IT ...

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.