Opening Acts: September 29, 2017

FHJC Wins Motion to Dismiss in Fair Housing Lawsuit

Court Rules FHJC Has Standing to Bring Claims Against Operators of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

On September 26, 2017, Federal District Judge Raymond J. Dearie ruled in favor of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) on a motion to dismiss filed by several defendants in a lawsuit alleging discrimination against Deaf and hard of hearing individuals at multiple nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The lawsuit, which stemmed from an eight-month systemic testing investigation, was filed on November 4, 2015 and alleged that operators of dozens of nursing homes and assisted living facilities refused to make American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services available to Deaf persons. Several defendants in the lawsuit have since entered into settlement agreements with the FHJC. The defendants who filed the motion to dismiss in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) included Allure Rehabilitation Services LLC, Hamilton Park Multicare LLC, Cassena Care LLC, Amsterdam Nursing Home Corporation, Sea Crest Health Care Center, LLC, Centers for Specialty Care Group, Sentosacare, LLC, White Plains Center for Nursing Care LLC, Eastchester Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, LLC, and Golden Gate Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, LLC.

The defendants filed three separate motions to dismiss the complaint claiming that the FHJC does not have standing and that the FHJC failed to state a claim for relief. The Court dismissed the motions in their entirety, finding that the significant diversion of resources expended by the FHJC to conduct the testing investigation into the defendants’ practices established the FHJC’s standing and right to seek damages. Further, Judge Dearie stated that the allegations in the complaint involve systemic wrongdoing which permits the FHJC to request injunctive and declaratory relief. Judge Dearie also found the FHJC had viable claims under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the federal Fair Housing Act, and the New York City Human Rights Law. Each of these laws provide specific legal protections for people with disabilities, including Deaf people.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “We are pleased that the Court affirmed our standing to challenge illegal housing discrimination and seek remedies under civil rights laws.” Freiberg added, “So much of the systemic housing discrimination in our region would simply go undetected and unchallenged without FHJC’s pro-active investigative work.  Systemic forms of discrimination continue to lock people out of opportunities and limit the housing choices available to many New Yorkers.  Our ability to bring our evidence to court and seek meaningful relief is a highly treasured right provided by fair housing laws.  Exercising that right is vital to achieving one of the central aims of fair housing laws, that of creating more open, accessible, and inclusive communities.”

The FHJC is represented by Eric Baum and Andrew Rozynski of Eisenberg & Baum, LLP.

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen fair housing enforcement in the New York City region.