Judge changes mind, sets trial date for Seven Bridges religious bias claim

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 supremacist area.”

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.