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Caplan v. Weis

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

February 11, 2015



RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [4] and Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Response [12]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.


This action arises out of a lessor's alleged failure to notify tenants that their rental property contained lead-based paint. Plaintiffs Kana and Richard Caplan planned to move to Atlanta in the fall of 2013. After inquiring about an online advertisement for a house to rent, Plaintiffs entered into a residential lease with Defendants Eagles Lake, Inc. and Martin Weis. Defendants did not disclose any defects in the house, and neither the lease agreement nor attachments contained any information about lead-based paint hazards. The lease did specify, however, that a minor child would live in the house. The parties executed the lease on August 9, 2013, and Plaintiffs paid the deposit and first month's rent for a total of $2, 800. The lease term began on September 1, 2013.

Plaintiffs moved into the house on September 24, 2013. They discovered that the house was very dirty and saw that Defendants had not finished painting as they had promised. Plaintiffs also discovered other problems, including holes in the floor and pests. A couple of days later, Defendants sent someone to clean the house. As she cleaned, paint chips from the doors, walls, windows, and trim fell on the floor. Kana Caplan then asked Mr. Weis during a telephone conversation if it was possible the paint contained lead. Mr. Weis said that many houses in the neighborhood contained lead paint, and it was possible their home did, too. Mr. Weis said he would take care of the problems with the house. Plaintiffs paid their second month's rent, but Defendants did not make any repairs.

On October 3, 2013, Ms. Caplan did some research about lead paint that caused her to become concerned for the safety of her family, especially her infant son. The Caplans purchased lead-paint test kits, which yielded positive results. They moved into a hotel that night. The Caplans told Mr. Weis that the paint tested positive for lead and asked him to fix the problem or they would be forced to move out. Mr. Weis refused.

The Caplans found another more expensive home to rent, and after consulting with an environmental testing company, they found out that their first house contained lead-based paint throughout the home. An inspection also revealed lead-containing dust in several spots of the house. The company advised the Caplans to have their possessions cleaned before moving into their new home and to replace their vacuum cleaner.

Defendants refused to compensate the Caplans for these expenses and failed to return Plaintiffs' security deposit. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed "to disclose information about lead-based paint hazards" and failed "to provide premises fit for habitation by an infant." (Compl., Dkt. [1] ¶ 47.) In that regard, Plaintiffs bring claims for (1) violation of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act's requirement that lessors disclose information about lead hazards; (2) negligence in failing to maintain the house in a state of workmanlike maintenance and repair; and (3) failure to return the security deposit within one month in compliance with O.C.G.A. § 44-7-34. Defendants move for dismissal of all claims.


I. Motion to Strike [12]

Defendants ask the Court to strike Plaintiffs' response brief as untimely because Plaintiffs filed their response on June 16, 2014, nineteen days after Defendants filed their May 28, 2014 motion to dismiss. Generally, parties have fourteen days to file a response to a motion to dismiss. LR 7.1B, NDGa. Plaintiffs correctly point out that service of documents filed through the case management/electronic case filing system is the "equivalent of service of the pleading or other paper by first class mail, postage prepaid, " and afforded the additional three days allowed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(d). LR, NDGA at Appendix H, II(B)(1)(a). Therefore, Plaintiffs had seventeen days to respond. Because the seventeenth day fell on Saturday, June 14, Plaintiffs timely filed their response on Monday, June 16, the next day the courthouse was open. See FED. R. CIV. P. 6(a)(1)(C) (stating that if a time period ends on "a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the period continues to run until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday"). That being the case, Defendants' Motion to Strike [12] is DENIED.

II. Motion to Dismiss Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." While this pleading standard does not require "detailed factual allegations, " mere labels and conclusions or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In order to withstand a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A complaint is plausible on its face when the plaintiff pleads factual content necessary for the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged. Id.

"At the motion to dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n.1 (11th Cir. 1999). However, the same does not apply to legal conclusions set forth in the complaint. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. ...

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