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Case Number: 4:23-cv-00594
Judge: Matthew W. Brann
Court: United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Lackawanna County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Scranton
Description: Scranton, Pennsylvania civil litigation lawyer represented Defendants accused of violating the Fair Housing Act.
The Government alleged that Asbury Communities, Inc. and Albright Care Services, hich operate eight continuing care retirement communities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee, discriminated against a resident of Asbury RiverWoods in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and her son by not approving the resident’s request that her adult son be allowed to stay in her independent living apartment as her live-in aide during the COVID pandemic to assist her with activities of daily living.
Because of her disability, the resident, now deceased, required a live-in aide to assist her with non-medical activities such as obtaining groceries, cooking, cleaning, and taking her physician-prescribed medications. During the weekend of March 15, 2020, management for defendants told the resident and her son that the son would not be able to continue to stay with his mother because the senior living community, including the independent living apartments, were going into lockdown. Despite threats to evict his mother from the apartment and calls for him to vacate the property, the son of the resident stayed in the apartment and cared for his mother during the pandemic until they both moved out of the apartment in July 2022.
“No housing provider, especially those housing our senior citizens, can discriminate against residents because of their disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam. “Those who operate senior living communities must recognize that their residents have the right to reasonable accommodations, which allow them to continue to live independently. This Office maintains its commitment to ensure those with disabilities are not discriminated against by housing providers, public accommodations, or local governments.”
The consent order resolving the lawsuit was approved by the United States District Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania today. This case arose as a result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the resident and her son. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and referred it to the Department of Justice.
"Denying a tenant residing in a retirement community a reasonable accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic is particularly egregious," said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria L. McCain of HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD's investigation, charge of discrimination and subsequent referral to the United States Attorney's Office demonstrates HUD's commitment to work with trusted partners to vigorously enforce fair housing laws."
Under the consent order, the defendants will pay $215,000 to the estate of the resident and her son. The consent order also requires defendants to take actions to prevent future unlawful discrimination at all eight of its properties, including complying with the Fair Housing Act, undergoing training on the Fair Housing Act, implementing a new reasonable accommodation policy, and complying with reporting requirements.
This investigation was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Butler, the civil rights coordinator, with assistance from Elizabeth Singer, Director of the United States Attorney’s Fair Housing Program in the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.
Outcome: Defendant agreed to pay $215,000 to settle the claims against them.