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Dalomba v. Simonsen

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

March 30, 2016

Maria Dalomba
v.
Edwin Simonsen, et al. Opinion No. 2016 DNH 071

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Paul Barbadoro United States District Judge

Maria Dalomba and her family, who are African-American, camped for several seasons at Hidden Valley RV Park in Derry, NH. During their time at Hidden Valley, the family experienced a series of racially-charged taunts and threats, largely from another camper and a park “security guard.” When Dalomba brought these incidents to the attention of defendants Edwin Simonsen and Catherine Kierstead, the park’s managers, they responded with their own provocative comments and what Dalomba perceived as a threat to throw them out of the park.

Dalomba now brings suit against Simonsen, Kierstead, and Hidden Valley under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, arguing that the defendants interfered, on account of Dalomba’s race, with her contractual right to stay at the park. The defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). They claim, among other things, that the entire action is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and that Dalomba failed to allege sufficient facts to show that Simonsen and Kierstead individually took any racially-motivated action against her. For the reasons that follow, I grant the defendants’ motion in part and deny it in part.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Maria Dalomba, her partner Larry Barrows, and their five children are “Black persons of African heritage.” Doc. No. 1 at 3. For the summer and early fall each year from 2007 to 2011, the family rented a space at the Hidden Valley RV Park in Derry, NH and camped there together under a seasonal contract. During the years they camped at Hidden Valley, Dalomba and her family were the only campers of African heritage at the park. Id.

From 2008 to 2011, a camper named Sean Piper, a Caucasian, rented the site adjacent to Dalomba. Sometime during the summer of 2008, Dalomba’s oldest child, Troy, was walking with a group of friends when Piper called over to Troy and yelled the word “mongrel.” Id. at 4. Piper also told a girl who had been walking with Troy to “watch out or you will have mongrel babies.” Id. Another camper who witnessed the incident mentioned it to Dalomba, who reported it to the then-campground manager Stephanie Simonsen, the now-deceased wife of defendant Edwin Simonsen. Stephanie Simonsen apologized to Dalomba and promised to speak with Piper about the incident, although no one associated with Hidden Valley followed up with Dalomba or took corrective action. Id. at 5. Dalomba and her family were very upset by the incident and Troy left the campground, returning “only rarely” after the encounter. Id. at 4.

In addition to the “mongrel” incident, Piper continued to give Dalomba and her family a difficult time. Later that summer of 2008, Piper complained to a park security guard identified in Dalomba’s complaint as “Francis”[2] about music that Dalomba and her family were playing, even though the music was not playing loudly. Id. at 6. Francis came over to Dalomba’s campsite and demanded that Dalomba turn down the radio, even though “quiet time” had not begun at the park. Id. In addition, Francis came over on several occasions and demanded that the family put out their campfire early, before 9:00 p.m., despite the campground rule allowing fires until 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. Id. Francis also followed Barrows, Dalomba’s partner, around the golf course when Barrows played golf. Francis did not follow white golfers around the golf course in the same manner. Id.

During the 2009 and 2010 camping seasons, Piper continued to harass Dalomba and her family. On multiple occasions, when they were cooking on their grill, Piper yelled over: “what are we having, fried chicken and watermelon?” followed by a burst of laughter. Id. at 7. Similarly, when Dalomba and her children entered the campground lake to swim, Piper yelled to his son to “[c]ome out of the water, because you don’t want to catch anything.” Id. To avoid these encounters, Dalomba took her kids to a smaller and less desirable pond to swim. Id.

The summer of 2011 brought more racially-charged incidents. On June 26, 2011, Francis called out “nigger campers!” in the direction of Dalomba’s campsite during a conversation with other campers. Id. at 8. The following day, a “new security guard, ” who the complaint identifies as “Jeremy/James”[3] Kierstead, came by Dalomba’s campsite and told Dalomba and Barrows that he had “heard about what happened last night.” Id. Jeremy/James said that he was surprised that Barrows had not physically assaulted Francis for his comment about “nigger campers.” Id. Dalomba and Barrows responded by explaining to Jeremy/James their history of racial harassment from Piper, including the comments about “mongrels, ” fried chicken, and watermelon. Id. at 8-9. They noted that they felt intimidated when they left their trailer and that Piper was also harassing them about the location of their flower bed. Id. at 9.

In response, Jeremy/James assured Dalomba that his mother, defendant Kierstead, and his grandfather, defendant Simonsen, were aware of Piper’s harassment and would “take action.” Id. Barrows also reported the incident directly to Simonsen and Kierstead during a conversation about why Barrows and family did not attend camp dances. Barrows responded that he did not want to hear comments about watermelon and preferred to stay home. Id. at 9-10.

Another confrontation occurred about a week later, on July 2, 2011. Elijah, Dalomba’s son, was riding his bike on a narrow path when Piper drove up to him in a golf cart, nearly forced him off the path, and told Elijah to “move it monkey!” Id. at 10. Piper then sped away. Elijah returned home upset and explained to Dalomba what had happened. Later, in response, Barrows went over to Piper’s trailer and told him “if you ever touch my kid I will break your _____neck!”[4] Id. Simonsen then arrived on the scene and witnessed a neighbor of Piper’s named Wayne (Wally) McFarland threaten Barrows, saying “[i]f you people want trouble, we’ll bring it;” “[y]ou’d better move or you’re going to have problems;” and “I have people I can call. Don’t make me make the call!” Id. at 11. Piper’s girlfriend Lisa Carson was also on the scene, and made an obscene gesture at Dalomba, who was nearby. Id. Dalomba responded by swearing at Carson. Id.

After Dalomba responded to Carson’s gesture, Simonsen intervened and yelled at Dalomba to “Calm down because when you people get upset you start shooting.” Id. The following exchange ensued:

Dalomba: “Are you kidding me?”
Simonsen: “Calm down, young lady!”
Dalomba: “Don’t you see that we’re being threatened?”
Simonsen: “No, I don’t, and if you don’t calm down, you’ll be thrown out.”
Dalomba: “We can’t calm down, he’s a racist and called our ...

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