Article Courtesy of The
Palm Beach Post
By Mike Diamond
Published August 12, 2021
The on-again, off-again religious discrimination lawsuit against the Seven
Bridges Homeowners Association west of Boca Raton is back on.
U.S. District Court
Judge Donald Middlebrooks reversed himself after attorneys
for a Christian woman, the alleged victim of the
discrimination, argued that case law requires that the
lawsuit be presented to a jury. He initially ruled he was
“inclined” to dismiss the lawsuit but changed his mind after
the woman's attorneys submitted additional arguments.
The trial will begin April 18 before U.S. Magistrate Judge
William Matthewman in West Palm Beach. Matthewman said in a
recent filing the trial is expected to take two weeks.
The lawsuit seeks $7 million from the HOA for alleged
violations of the Fair Housing Act. It claims the HOA failed
to address discriminatory behavior targeted at Deborah
LaGrasso. The lawsuit also seeks to “de-annex” the LaGrasso
home from the Seven Bridges development.
LaGrasso allegedly was called “a stupid shiksa” (a
disparaging term to describe a non-Jewish woman) and was
told to move out of Seven Bridges because it is 80% Jewish.
The conduct created a hostile housing environment, according
to the lawsuit.
The case revolves around the conduct of two women at Seven
Bridges: LaGrasso, a Christian, and Rachel Tannenholz, who
is Jewish. They became involved in a heated dispute over an
anonymous Facebook page that LaGrasso created more than a
year ago. LaGrasso's posts criticized the clubhouse
restaurant, claiming that pest feces and insects were in the
food. Board members were criticized and they found the
comments to be anti-Semitic.
In response, the HOA imposed a $5,000 fine on LaGrasso and
suspended her for 330 days from the amenities at Seven
Bridges, including the pool, clubhouse and tennis courts.
Deborah LaGrasso and her
husband Joe have filed a $7 million federal lawsuit against the HOA
of Seven Bridges, claiming they did not adequately control religious
discrimination against them because they were Italian living in a
religious community in Boca Raton, September 10, 2020. The lawsuit
stems from an argument and subsequent fight her children were
involved in with residents on the tennis courts at Seven Bridges.
Tannenholz allegedly responded to one of LaGrasso's posts by saying that if she
was so unhappy, LaGrasso should move to “a Klan neighborhood . . . a white
LaGrasso called Tannenholz on her Facebook site the "Seven Bridges community
stripper,” adding, “OH MY those platform shoes are horrendous… (it) must be so
hard to type and dance on the pole at the same time.!!! [sic]"
When Tannenholz learned that the anonymous Facebook page was administered by
LaGrasso, she went to LaGrasso’s home in an effort to get her take down the
“humiliating post,” according to court documents.
She rang the doorbell repeatedly, banged on the front door, and yelled for
LaGrasso to come outside. LaGrasso allegedly threatened to shoot Tannenholz if
she did not leave. Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies threatened to file a
trespassing complaint against Tannenholz if she came back to the property.
Scott Weires, LaGrasso’s lawyer, said that he was pleased that the judge
reconsidered his position and focused on his claim that there was
“well-established legal precedent” for the case to be heard by a jury. HOA
lawyers failed to respond to calls seeking comment.
Seven Bridges is a high-end family development consisting of 701 homes. Many of
them routinely sell for more than $1 million.
LaGrasso’s lawyers want to present at trial a December 2019 dispute on the
tennis courts concerning her daughters’ use of the courts for lessons. LaGrasso
claimed that some female players harassed her daughters because they wanted the
courts for league play.
A confrontation developed, and the HOA accused LaGrasso of assaulting some of
the women. LaGrasso claimed she was the one assaulted but the HOA sided with her
accusers. As a result, she was barred from using any of amenities for 90 days.
The incident occurred several months before the issue with Tannenholz. The HOA
wants to exclude any evidence related to the incident on the grounds that it is
irrelevant to the housing discrimination charge.
Separately, Tannenholz filed a lawsuit of her own in Palm Beach County alleging
that the posts on LaGrasso’s Facebook page amounted to defamation. She also
accuses her of malicious prosecution and of illegally recording a phone call
between the two women. The trial in that case is scheduled to begin May 2.