Chicago Lawyers’ Committee Successfully Negotiates Settlement in Stevens vs. Hollywood Towers, et al Discrimination Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Chicago, IL (January 3, 2013) – The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. (CLC) announces a settlement agreement that resolves a two-year long disability discrimination battle between Plaintiffs Mary and Ralph Stevens and Defendants Hollywood Towers Condominium and its property managers, Joseph Armenio and Sudler and Company d/b/a Sudler Property Management.

Mr. and Mrs. Stevens alleged that the Defendants denied their reasonable accommodation request to have their 12-pound emotional support dog by failing to explicitly grant the request, constantly requesting more documentation and imposing a series of restrictions on their ability to move freely through the common areas of the condominium with their dog.

In March, 1999, Mrs. Stevens suffered brain trauma as a result of a car accident. Following the accident, Mrs. Stevens began experiencing unpredictable panic attacks during which she stops breathing. After a series of unsuccessful treatments, Mrs. Stevens’ doctor prescribed an emotional support animal. Mrs. Stevens’ support animal allows her to perform necessary daily activities and maintain her quality of life. Mr and Mrs. Stevens alleged that they were harassed by the property manager and condominium association for having the emotional support animal and felt forced to sell their newly renovated unit at a loss and move out of the condominium.

On April 20, 2010, Mrs. Stevens filed a disability discrimination complaint with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. Once Mr. and Mrs. Stevens obtained counsel, they filed a complaint at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), and at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division in March, 2011. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens were represented by volunteer attorneys from Schiff Hardin LLP, Paula Ketcham and Xiaorong Jajah Wu and CLC staff attorney Rachel Marks.

The terms of the settlement, which was facilitated by Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown, require the Defendants to attend fair housing training (at their expense) and adopt a new policy and rules to govern how they respond to reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification requests. The new policy will incorporate requirements found in the Joint Statements of the United States. Department of Justice and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development on Reasonable Accommodations and Reasonable Modifications Requests. Finally, the Defendants agreed to pay $32,500 to Mr. and Mrs. Stevens in compensation.

“It is imperative that housing providers take the disability status of their unit owners or tenants seriously – no matter the kind or perceived degree of disability – and make every accommodation or modification necessary to ensure that they have equal access to and enjoyment of their housing,” said Ms. Marks.

###

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. protects and promotes civil rights by bringing the strength and prestige of the private bar to bear on the problems of poverty and discrimination. Founded in 1969, the Committee champions equal justice and community development for underrepresented people by partnering with volunteer lawyers to provide litigation and transactional representation. For more information on the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.clccrul.org