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No Fee Shifting for Landlord Who Exposed Self to Tenants

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on April 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In some cases, the prevailing party can collect fees in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

But a landlord who allegedly exposed his genitalia to female tenants, won't be allowed to collect more than $100,000 in legal fees that he requested, reports Courthouse News.

Bobby Hurt, the landlord and owner of a group of trailer parks, was sued by the government after eight women came forward alleging sexual harassment. The women testified at trial, saying that as park manager, Hurt entered their trailers and exposed his genitalia. They claimed he also made lewd comments, and touched the tenants' breasts and inner thighs.

Other women came forward and claimed that Hurt asked for sexual favors in exchange for housing or utilities.

Not only did he ask for sexual favors, but Bobby Hurt reportedly dished out advice to other trailer park landlords on how to obtain sexual favors from tenants.

Well, not all bad deeds go punished. A court found that Hurt did not violate the Fair Housing Act, and the court awarded him and his wife, (who was also a party to the lawsuit), $142,905 in attorney's fees and over $16,000 in costs.

But the prevailing party fee-shifting statute has its limitations. A prevailing party cannot collect if the government's position was substantially justified.

Last week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the fees decision citing that the district court improperly considered the case as 10 individual claims when it should have been one single determination on a greater pattern.

The jury in the trial court found 4 of the 10 victims credible. As a result, the government lost its case. Chief Judge William Riley of the Eighth Circuit wrote that the finding of four credible witnesses demonstrated that "the government's theory of a pattern or practice of sexual discrimination was substantially justified."

Bobby Hurt may have won his case, but it cost him a fortune to defend it.

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