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Okpala v. Lucian

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 31, 2015

HENRY UCHE OKPALA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN JOSEPH LUCIAN, et al., Defendants.

Henry Uche Okpala, Newark, Delaware, Delaware; Pro Se Plaintiff.

John Joseph Lucian, Baltimore, Maryland; Pro se Defendant.

John Edward Lucian, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pro Se Defendant.

Robert Karl Beste, Ill. Esquire, Smith, Katzenstein & Jenkins LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Counsel for Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

Jared Thomas Green, Esquire, Seitz, Van Ogtrop & Green, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware; Counsel for Defendant ServiceMaster Restoration of Montgomery, Frederick, Howard & Washington Counties.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Henry Uche Okpala, proceeds pro se and has paid the filing fee. Before the court are Defendants' motions to dismiss and Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company's motion to strike and Plaintiff's opposition thereto. (D.I. 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 24)

BACKGROUND

The amended complaint alleges that in 2007, Okpala leased from Defendant John Joseph Lucian a townhome in Hanover, Maryland, for a one-year term beginning May 1, 2007. (D.I. 9, at 2-3, ¶¶ 7-8). Okpala lived at the property until late November 2013. ( Id. at 8, ¶ 1). Named as defendants are John Joseph Lucian and John Edward Lucian, identified as landlords; Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, identified as the insurer of the townhome; and ServiceMaster Restoration of Montgomery, Frederick & Howard & Washington Counties, [1] identified as a corporation and described as the entity who provided clean-up services at the townhome.

On October 18, 2013, while Okpala was cooking, a kitchen fire occurred at the townhome. ( Id. at 4-5, ¶¶ 4-5). The fire caused extensive damage to the townhome and Okpala needed temporary housing. ( Id. At 6, ¶ 11). It appears that Liberty Mutual had the property cleaned and restored by Service Master Restoration. ( Id. at 6-7, ¶¶ 10, 11). Okpala disagreed with the manner of the cleanup and restoration and withheld rent payments. ( Id. at 7, ¶ 15). In turn, J.J Lucian filed a lawsuit against Okpala for nonpayment of rent. ( Id. at 7, ¶¶ 15-16).

Okpala seeks a refund of his security deposit and alleges the Lucians are in breach of contract. ( Id. at 7, ¶¶ 21-22). Okpala alleges that the Lucians and Liberty Mutual failed to remedy the "inhuman conditions in a professional, timely manner and schedule simply because Plaintiff and his family are non-Caucasians" and that ServiceMaster Restoration failed to do its]"duty in a conscientious manner by removing the rugs in the property, leaving a network of tens of thousands of rusted nails, ... and did not consider the non-Caucasian occupants of the property as persons fit for decent life." ( Id. at 7-8). Okpala seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

In their motions to dismiss, the Lucians advise the Court that, due to Okpala's failure to pay his monthly rent for October and November 2013, J.J. Lucian obtained judgments pursuant to Section 8-401 of the Real Property Article of Annotated Code of Maryland from the District Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County on November 1, 2013, Case No. 2013-0702-26399 and No. 2013-0702-26476). (D.I. 11, exs. A, B). Okpala did not vacate the property and, on November 15, 2013, the District Court of Maryland issued a warrant of restitution. ( Id. at ex. C). The Sheriff of Anne Arundel County scheduled the eviction of Okpala for December 5, 2013. ( Id. at ex. D).

After Okpala failed to satisfy the money judgments entered against him, J.J. Lucian filed, and was granted, a request for judgment - garnishment, to garnish Okpala's bank account in satisfaction of the judgments, Case No. 0702-12175-2013. ( Id. at ex. E). Okpala opposed garnishment and argued to the District Court of Maryland that: J. J. Lucian failed to notify the Court that he seized Okpala's security deposit, Okpala suffered damages as a result of alleged conduct by J. J. Lucian, J. J. Lucian gained access to the property without notice to Okpala, Okpala is entitled to insurance payments from J. J. Lucian's insurance company, J. J. Lucian stole property from Okpala, and the property was unfit for human habitation. ( Id. at ex. F)

Following the garnishment action, Okpala filed suit against J.J. Lucian in the District Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County seeking a refund of his security deposit, Case No. 0702-0003991-2014. (D.I. 23, ex. A). J.J. Lucian counterclaimed alleging a material breach of the lease and sought damages allegedly caused by Okpala unrelated to unpaid rent for October and November 2013 or the kitchen fire damages. ( Id. at ex. B). Okpala opposed the counterclaim, denied the allegations, and responded that the townhouse "was in a state not fit for human habitation, " that the matter directly related to a civil case in the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County, and that J. J. Lucian "did not regard [Okpala] and his family as fit for decent habitation." (D.I. 11, ex. G). On October 7, 2014, following ...


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