Akron Jury Awards $100,000 For Family Discrimination

An Akron, Ohio, jury in March awarded Christine Gamble $100,000 in punitive damages in her housing discrimination suit against Cortland Court, of Trumbull County, owned by the Realty Trust.

Ms. Gamble sued Cortland Court for discrimination against her because of her family status (the presence of children under the age of 18). As the evidence presented in court showed, Cortland Court segregated their apartment buildings, placing families w ith children in a few buildings, while maintaining other buildings as "adult only." The adult buildings were designated because as "secure" buildings, a key was needed to enter the building.

When Ms. Gamble and her family needed to seek new housing in November 1991, her sister invited the family to move in with her at the Cortland Court apartments for a short time. Because of some difficulties in finding housing, Ms. Gamble's family continue d to live with her sister at Cortland Courts for one year. During the last six months of her time at the complex, Ms. Gamble attempted to rent her own unit.

Repeatedly apartments became vacant yet Ms. Gamble was never contacted. Finally she asked the on site managers, Joe and Treva Perry, why she was not being offered a unit, and she was told that she needed to submit an application. Later she submitted an application. Again she was not given an apartment and when she asked about a vacancy in one of the "secure" buildings, she was told that children were not allowed to live in those buildings.

Ms. Gamble contacted Fair Housing Contact Service, a fair housing agency, whom investigated the situation. Fair Housing Contact Service assigned five testers to contact the complex. Three testers who testified in court were told that the apartment compl ex had family only and adult only units.

The complaint was filed in federal court in November 1993. The trial was held February 27 through March 1, 1995. Orlando Williams, the plaintiff's attorney, requested a directed verdict against the owner of the complex, Realty Trust. Based on the evide nce, Judge David D. Dowd granted the request, finding Realty Trust fully culpable for the discrimination.