(CN) – A California appeals court dismissed the civil rights claims of two female tenants whose resident manager allegedly let himself into their apartment while they were away and sniffed their underwear.
The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by tenants Lourdes Ramirez and her minor daughter against their landlord, Weller Wong.
Ramirez and her daughter claimed Wong was liable for the actions of manager Daniel Valdez, who purportedly used his keys to get into their apartment, went into the bedroom, opened a dresser drawer and “removed and sniffed plaintiffs’ underwear, all without plaintiffs’ permission or knowledge,” according to the ruling.
The tenants said they found out about the panty sniffing because it was caught on the video surveillance system they had installed. They said the video showed Valdez also checking under the bed and adjusting items on the dresser.
Valdez was arrested and convicted of burglary, according to Ramirez.
The landlord demurred, and the trial court dismissed the case without leave to amend.
The trial judge explained that, although the incident occurred, the tenants “have not alleged and cannot allege violence or threat of violence against plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ property.”
The state appeals court agreed that the tenants have no case under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
“Valdez’s conduct may constitute burglary or other crimes, and may be a severe intrusion into plaintiffs’ privacy,” Justice Elizabeth Grimes wrote. “But those facts cannot transform Valdez’s conduct into sexual harassment” or a threat of violence.