New Orleans Legal Assistance helps family win $7,500

Janice Nunnery and Charles Nelson, a couple from New Orleans, Louisiana, recently settled a federal fair housing complaint against Rolland Jee, an apartment complex owner, and Leola McCullen, the manager at the complex.  A cash award of $7,500 was agreed to in the May settlement.

 The settlement also requires Jee and McCullen to attend fair housing training.  Additionally, Jee must post “Equal Housing Opportunity” signs at all of his rental properties.

 In April 1996, Nunnery and Nelson agreed to rent an apartment from Jee for themselves and their infant daughter.  As they were moving in, they were spotted by McCullen.  McCullen told the couple that they could not move into the apartment they had agreed to lease.

Manager said no children were allowed in one particular unit
McCullen said that they could not have the apartment in question because they had a child and that she would not allow any family with children to move into that particular apartment.  Nunnery and Nelson moved out the next day.  They believed that the apartment they had attempted to lease had been located directly above McCullen’s apartment and that is why she did not want children in the unit.

 Nunnery contacted Jee and explained the situation.  She asked Jee why they had been forced to move out.  Jee stood by McCullen’s decision and refused to take any action.

 Testing by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center strongly supported the allegations of family status discrimination leveled by Nunnery and Nelson.  After Jee refused to respond to a demand letter, Nunnery and Nelson, represented by attorneys from the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation, filed a lawsuit in federal district court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

 According to Marc DuBois, one of the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs in the case, the key element in reaching the settlement was that Jee’s insurance company was kept in the case.  When Nunnery and Nelson filed their lawsuit against Jee and McCullen, the company that issued Jee’s insurance policy filed an action for declaratory judgment.  Attorneys from the insurer tried to obtain an order declaring that they did not have to cover the allegedly discriminatory actions undertaken by Jee and McCullen and that they did not have a duty to defend Jee in court.  Attorneys from the insurance company argued that because the actions taken by Jee and McCullen were intentional, Jee’s insurance policy did not cover the claims being made by the plaintiffs.