IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
TAMARACK PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CO.;
ED JONES; LINDA JONES; KATHY
KINGMAN; and FORSYTH DEVELOPMENT
Complaint for Damages
Demand for Jury Trial
The United States of America alleges:
- This action is brought by the United States on behalf of Gaylene Martinez and George Avalos pursuant to Section 812(o) of the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§3601 et seq.
- This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1345, and 42 U.S.C. §3612(o).
- Venue is proper in the judicial district of Montana under 28 U.S.C. §1391(b) and 42 U.S.C. §3612(o), in that the events or omissions giving rise to this action occurred in this district.
- Defendant Tamarack Property Management Co. ("Tamarack") is a corporation organized under Montana law, and it maintains its principle place of business in Billings, Montana. At all times relevant herein, Tamarack, by contract with Defendant Forsyth Development Foundation, Inc., provided property management services for Riverview Villa, a fifty (50) unit retirement community located on Rosebud Street in Rosebud County, Montana.
- Defendant Kathy Kingman was the Area Property Manager for Tamarack from before November 1997, through January 1999.
- Defendant Linda Jones was the Resident Manager for Riverview Villa from before November 1997, until after February 1999.
- Defendant Ed Jones was the Maintenance Supervisor for Riverview Villa from before November 1997, until after February 1999.
- Defendant Forsyth Development Foundation, Inc. ("FDF") is organized under Montana law as a nonprofit entity. FDF maintains its principle place of business in Forsyth, Montana. In or around May 1996, FDF entered into a twenty-five (25) year lease with the City of Forsyth, Montana, the owner of Riverview Villa, for the purpose of providing housing to area residents, age fifty-five (55) and older, at Riverview Villa.
- The units available for rent at Riverview Villa are dwellings within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3602(b).
- George Avalos has polymyalgia rheumatica, hydrocephalus and pulmonary fibrosis. These conditions require him to use a wheelchair, and severely restrict his ability to care for himself. Mr. Avalos is a handicapped person within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3602(h).
- At all times relevant herein, Gaylene Martinez, George Avalos' niece, lived with Mr. Avalos and acted as his caregiver.
- On January 15, 1999, Gaylene Martinez and George Avalos, filed a timely complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), alleging that Defendants had discriminated against them on the basis of disability by failing to permit reasonable modifications and accommodations, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
- Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted an investigation of the complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered in this investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that illegal discriminatory housing practices had occurred at Riverview Villa. Therefore, on April 15, 2002, HUD issued its Determination of Reasonable Cause, and on April 17, 2002, HUD issued its Charge of Discrimination, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3610(g)(2)(A), charging that the Defendants had engaged in discriminatory practices, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. On May 6, 2002, Gaylene Martinez, George Avalos, and Defendants elected to have the charges resolved in a federal civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§3612(a) and (o).
- On or about November 25, 1997, George Avalos and Gaylene Martinez entered into a lease for a unit located in Riverview Villa at 10 Scoby Circle ("the subject unit"). Mr. Avalos and Ms. Martinez resided in the subject unit from on or about December 1, 1997, through on or about February 28, 1999.
- There is at least one (1) step at each of the three (3) entrances to the subject unit.
- On numerous occasions while she and her uncle lived at Riverview Villa, Gaylene Martinez made repeated requests to Defendants Ed Jones and Linda Jones for permission to install a wheelchair ramp, at the tenant's expense, so that Mr. Avalos could enter and exit his unit using a wheelchair.
- Defendants refused permission to Gaylene Martinez to install a wheelchair ramp at the tenant's expense. Defendants instead installed a temporary wheelchair ramp, consisting of a plywood board, in the garage of the subject unit at the time George Avalos and Ms. Martinez moved in, and, on several different occasions, represented to Ms. Martinez that they would build a permanent wheelchair ramp at the front door later.
- The temporary ramp was not adequate to enable George Avalos to enter and exit his unit safely. On several occasions Mr. Avalos fell while attempting to enter the unit via the temporary ramp.
- Gaylene Martinez offered to hire someone to build the permanent wheelchair ramp and cover all costs herself, but Defendants refused her offer. Despite Ms. Martinez's repeated requests, a permanent wheelchair ramp was never installed at the subject unit.
- George Avalos' disability causes severe pain and rigidity in his muscles. He has a medical prescription to soak in a hot tub to alleviate this pain and rigidity. Throughout her tenancy at Riverview Villa, Gaylene Martinez made repeated requests for permission to place a portable hot tub inside the subject unit.
- Defendant Linda Jones told Gaylene Martinez, in or around May 1998, that Tamarack had rejected her request.
- On or about June 10, 1998, Gaylene Martinez attended an FDF board meeting. Ms. Martinez asked the board to reconsider Tamarack's denial of her request to place a portable hot tub in the subject unit. The board refused Ms. Martinez's request.
- By the actions referred to above, Defendants, individually, or through their agents, have:
- Refused to permit, at the expense of the handicapped person, reasonable modification of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such persons if such modification may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(f)(3)(A); and
- Refused to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(f)(3)(B).
- George Avalos and Gaylene Martinez are aggrieved persons within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3602(i), and have suffered injuries as a result of the Defendants' discriminatory conduct described herein.
- The discriminatory actions of the Defendants described herein were intentional, willful, and/or taken in disregard of the civil rights of others.
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an Order that:
- Declares that the actions of the Defendants as set forth above violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §3601 et seq., specifically 42 U.S.C. §§3604(f)(3)(A) and (B);
- Enjoins all Defendants, their partners, officers, employees, agents, and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of the Defendants, from:
- Refusing to permit, at the expense of the handicapped person, reasonable modification of existing premises occupied or to be occupied by such persons if such modification may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises; and
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling;
- Awards each aggrieved individual such damages as would fully compensate them for the injuries caused by the Defendants' discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§3612(o)(3) and 3613(c); and
- Awards punitive damages to each aggrieved individual, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§3612(o)(3) and 3613(c).
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
|RALPH F. BOYD, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General
|JOAN A. MAGAGNA
Chief, Housing and Civil
Civil Rights Division
|ISABELLE M. THABAULT
ERIN MEEHAN RICHMOND
Housing & Civil Enforcement
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Northwestern Building, 7th Fl.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Document Filed: June 5, 2002 > >