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Stallworth v. Omninet Village, L.P.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

May 22, 2017

DONELL STALLWORTH, Plaintiff,
v.
OMNINET VILLAGE, L.P., OMNINET VILLAGE LAKE, LLC and OMNINET PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          GREGORY A. PRESNELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

          This matter comes before the Court without a hearing on the Motion to Certify Class (Doc. 46) filed by the Plaintiff, Donell Stallworth (“Stallworth”), the response in opposition (Doc. 52) filed by the Defendants, Omninet Village, L.P., Omninet Village Lake, LLC, and Omninet Property Management, Inc. (collectively, “Omninet”), and the reply (Doc. 55) filed by Stallworth.

         I. Background

         The Defendants own and manage an apartment complex - Village Lakes Apartments (henceforth, “Village Lakes”) - in Orlando. Stallworth has been a resident of Village Lakes since July 2013. (Doc. 1 at 4). He contends that, beginning in August 2013, the combination of a leaky air conditioner and a poorly ventilated bathroom resulted in repeated outbreaks of black mold throughout his apartment. (Doc. 1 at 5-6). After he reported the problem, Stallworth says, the management of the complex failed to properly clean up the mold, to keep the air conditioner working properly or to provide ventilation in the bathroom. (Doc. 1 at 6-8). As a result, even if the mold was cleaned up, it would return and spread to other areas of his apartment. (Doc. 1 at 6-8). Beginning in January 2014, Stallworth began to experience headaches and respiratory issues, which he attributes to the mold. (Doc. 1 at 6). At some point, Stallworth alleges, he “became aware” of numerous other Village Lakes residents who were suffering mold problems in their apartments, which were not being properly addressed by the complex management. (Doc. 1 at 9). On March 31, 2016, he filed the instant suit, a purported class action, asserting claims for breach of contract (Count I) and breach of the implied warranty of habitability (Count II).[1]

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Rule 23

         Class actions are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Rule 23 provides, in pertinent part, that one or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a).

The class action is an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only. To come within the exception, a party seeking to maintain a class action must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance with Rule 23. The Rule does not set forth a mere pleading standard. Rather, a party must not only be prepared to prove that there are in fact sufficiently numerous parties, common questions of law or fact, typicality of claims or defenses, and adequacy of representation, as required by Rule 23(a). The party must also satisfy through evidentiary proof at least one of the provisions of Rule 23(b).

Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1426, 1432, 185 L.Ed.2d 515 (2013) (internal citations and quotations omitted). In the instant case, the Plaintiffs seek to proceed pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3), which applies if

the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the ...

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