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Schwab v. Rondel Homes, Inc.

California Supreme Court
808 P.2d 226 (1991)


Facts

Bill Allen and David Schwab (plaintiffs) attempted to rent an apartment in a complex operated by Rondel Homes, Inc. (Rondel) (defendant). Allen was deaf and used a signal dog. Allen and Schwab told Rondel that they had and needed the signal dog. Allen and Schwab also provided Rondel with a book that discussed the legal rights of persons owning signal dogs. However, Rondel refused to rent to Allen and Schwab because of the signal dog. Allen and Schwab sued Rondel, alleging a cause of action for housing discrimination. The complaint sought: (1) damages for mental and emotional distress, (2) further monetary and pecuniary damages in amounts to be proved at trial, (3) statutory treble damages of no less than $250, (4) attorneys’ fees, and (5) punitive damages of $500,000. Rondel did not respond to the complaint, and the trial court entered a default judgment. The trial court then held a hearing on damages and awarded each plaintiff $50,000 in general damages, punitive damages of $100,000, and attorneys’ fees. Later, Rondel filed a motion to set aside the default judgment. The trial court found that Allen and Schwab had failed to serve a statement of damages on Rondel and set aside the default judgment. The California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and reinstated the default judgment for the original amount of punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. However, the Court of Appeal limited the general damages to $25,000 per plaintiff. The California Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Broussard, J.)

Dissent (Mosk, J.)

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