Gokey v. Bessette

In Gokey v. Bessette, 154 Vt. 560, 580 A.2d 488 (1990), the Court held that the retaliatory eviction statute, 9 V.S.A. 4465(a)(2), did not contemplate use of a subjective test for evaluating what is retaliatory conduct. Id. at 564, 580 A.2d at 491. The Court reasoned "a subjective test would effectively establish such a high burden of proof for tenants that the benefit the Legislature intended to confer would be an illusion." Id. Contrary to tenants' claim here, Gokey did not relieve tenants of their burden to prove a retaliatory eviction. Instead, it relieved tenants of the obligation to establish retaliation by proving landlords' subjective intent. Gokey imposed an objective test for evaluating "what is and is not retaliatory." Under this test, tenants can rely on the surrounding facts and circumstances to fulfill their burden of proving retaliatory eviction. Id.