HOA To Pay $300K For Disability Discrimination
The parents of a woman with severe disabilities who say they were forced to move from their Marion County, Ore. neighborhood after the homeowners association barred them from parking an RV in their driveway have settled their lawsuit for $300,000.
The parents of Khrizma Kuhn had argued that their 34-year-old daughter needed the RV to travel to medical appointments and other places. She suffered from a condition that caused frequent bouts of diarrhea and had to be near a toilet and a shower, they said.
Gary and Renee Kuhn bought their Keizer, Ore. home in 2005 and got the RV in 2015 after their daughter’s incontinence worsened. She has Down syndrome, autism and an IQ of 36.
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But the McNary Estates homeowners association wouldn’t budge, saying the 25-foot RV was too big to park at their home and violated the neighborhood’s covenants.
Seeing no other choice, the Kuhns sold their home in August 2015 and moved to Woodburn, Ore., where the homeowners association immediately approved the parking of their RV.
The Kuhns filed suit in U.S. District Court in January 2016, alleging that McNary Estates and a sub-homeowners association violated their daughter’s civil rights under federal and Oregon fair housing acts by failing to make a “reasonable accommodation” of her request, as required by law.
In January, federal Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Kuhns were right that their daughter had faced discrimination. All that was left to decide, Aiken said, was how much the homeowners association had to pay as compensation.
This month, attorneys for the case announced the $300,000 settlement, which is being paid by the McNary Estates’ insurer.
The settlement will cover the Kuhns’ economic losses — including $2,400 for lodging for the month they had to stay at a motel during their move and the $76,000 difference between the selling price of their old home and the money they paid for their new house. The Kuhns will pay their attorneys fees from the $300,000.
Greg Lusby, an attorney for McNary Estates, couldn’t be reached for comment.
In Aiken’s written ruling, she noted that a next-door neighbor was upset that the RV blocked her line of sight as she left her driveway. The Kuhns offered her a parabolic mirror to help with that, but she rejected it, writing in an email to the Kuhns that “I have left your parabolic mirror on our porch. Please pick it up today as we do not wish to use it.”
The judge wrote that it appears the parabolic mirror would reduce or eliminate the neighbor’s problem with sight lines.
Dennis Steinman, the Portland, Ore. attorney who represented the Kuhn family, described the judge’s January ruling as “powerful” and said it could be used as precedent for other cases in which people with disabilities are fighting for “reasonable accommodation” in their housing.
“I think it’s a terrific vindication for disability rights,” Steinman said. “I think this opinion will go a long way in helping other disabled people in the future.”
The Kuhns wanted only to meet their daughter’s “need to be out in public so she could engage with the world and not be isolated in her room,” he said. But “they found extreme resistance from neighbors and the (homeowners) board for really no legitimate reason.”
Steinman said he hopes this sends a message to McNary Estates, as well as other homeowners associations with steadfast rules.
“Many people who live in HOAs are often frustrated with the amount of power HOAs have over the way they live in their community,” Steinman said. “This is an instance where the HOA perhaps took their power too far.”
© 2017 The Oregonian
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