Condo Still on the Hook for Removing Mezuzah

     CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge refused to toss state-law claims against a condominium that allegedly took down a Jewish woman’s mezuzah on several occasions, with the final insult coming while she was attending her husband’s funeral.

     For several years, Lynne Bloch and her family posted a mezuzah outside the front door of their apartment at the Shoreline Towers in Chicago, in keeping with Jewish law. A mezuzah a tiny scroll with passages from the Torah, usually kept in a decorative box. Observant Jews often touch and kiss the mezuzah and pray when entering the home.
     In 2004, however, the Shoreline repainted its hallways and removed the Blochs’ mezuzah.
     Bloch says the Shoreline Towers Condominium Association and its president, Edward Frischholz, removed her mezuzah three times before her husband, Dr. Marvin Bloch, died in 2005. The board agreed not to remove the mezuzah for the seven-day mourning period known as Shiva, but allegedly took it down while the Blochs were at the funeral.
     The Blochs then filed claims including common-law intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the Illinois Condominium Property Act (ICPA) in both state and federal court.
     As both actions have continued to navigate the courts on appeal for the past several years, the condo board and its president moved to dismiss two state-law claims from the federal complaint.
     The condo defendants argued that the Cook County Circuit Court had dismissed Bloch’s state-law claims four separate times for failure to state a claim, and that she should be barred from relitigating such claims in federal court.
     Pointing out that the trial court vacated its order of dismissal, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall said Bloch has not yet exhausted the potential for appellate review.
     “Moreover, as Lynne notes, the law of the case doctrine is inapplicable where, as here, the case was not removed or transferred to federal court,” Kendall wrote on July 5.
     The judge added that Bloch’s federal action sufficiently states a state-law claim of breach of fiduciary duty by alleging that condo board violated the Illinois Condominium Property Act by enforcing rules and regulations that impaired her ability to freely exercise her religion and her right to free speech.
     Though the board challenged Bloch’s claim for damages, Kendall ruled that the complaint pleaded sufficient facts to enable her to pursue damages for mental distress where the defendant had ‘reason to know that a breach of his fiduciary duty is likely to cause emotional distress, for reasons other than pecuniary loss.”
     “Here, Lynne alleges that Defendants were aware of Lynne’s religious obligation to place a Mezuzah on her doorpost; knew that her husband passed away; knew that their religious home-based mourning was taking place in Lynne’s condominium unit; yet removed the Mezuzah during the mourning period despite a verbal commitment to allow it to remain,” Kendall wrote. “As a result, Lynne suffered great anguish and embarrassment. The Court finds that Lynne has pled facts demonstrating that Defendants reasonably knew that a breach of their commitment to leave Lynne’s Mezuzah on her doorpost while mourning the loss of her husband would cause emotional distress for reasons other than pecuniary loss.”

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