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Housing lawsuit against ASG dismissed

reporters@samoanews.com

A lawsuit filed in 2009 against the American Samoa Government by a Filipino couple alleging breach of contract, tortuous interference and intentional infliction of emotional distress when the government failed to provide them housing assistance, has been dismissed by the Trial Division of the High Court.

Earl Lim and Luvismin Lim filed their lawsuit through their lawyer Mark Ude.

The five-page order, signed by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr stated that on October 2, 2009 the government moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.

The trial court consequently granted the government’s motion in dismissing the tortuous interference claim but the intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract claims were not dismissed.

In February 7, 2012 the government again moved for a summary judgment for the breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress to be dismissed.

BREACH OF CONTRACT

According to the order, the plaintiffs allege in their complaint they signed a written contract and the government breached the terms of the written agreement.

The government, however, according to the court, correctly points out that what the plaintiffs signed was not a written contract but rather, it was an application to receive emergency housing assistance.

This is part of an emergency shelter grant administered by the Department of Human and Social Services.

In opposing the government’s summary judgment motion, the plaintiffs argue they entered into a verbal contract with the government.

The order states the plaintiffs alleged a verbal contract between them and the government was created because they had submitted their application for housing assistance and had been told by government officials that their application was accepted and had been promised verbally that the government would pay for their utilities and rent.

The trial court says this is not sufficient to convince them that a verbal contract between the parties may have been created.

It says, the government’s program at the center of the suit was a gratuitous program that the government initiated to assist the plaintiffs, who were facing financial hardship and were having difficulty paying their rent.

“Being a gratuitous arrangement, we fail to see what valuable consideration the plaintiffs provided to qualify any verbal agreement the parties made as a binding verbal contract under the contract law,” says the order.

The trial court then grants the summary of judgment in favor of the government, and moved to dismiss the breach of contract claim.

INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS CLAIM

The order states that nothing in the facts raised genuine issues as to whether the government intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon the plaintiffs.

The trial court states that from what they gathered from the record, the outrageous conduct complained of is a letter, dated November 26, 2006 that the government submitted to the plaintiff, terminating her employment with the government.

The record, however provides little about the letter and the letter is devoid of facts that would allow the court to better understand its contents and the context within which it had been written and served to plaintiffs.

According to the order, the information about the letter, which is unavailable in the record, amounts to nothing more than baseless assertions and speculation.

It states the plaintiffs have presented nothing to the court in which the court can move forward with the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, and granted the summary of judgment in the government’s favor on the claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress.



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