Disabled California woman wins posthumous settlement in her claim against complex

The family of a California woman settled a federal claim of disability discrimination for $67,500 in August 1997. The consent decree in the case was approved by US District Judge Spencer Williams and also calls for Heritage Park Apartments, a 500-unit complex in Sunnyvale, to develop and adopt a reasonable accommodation policy and to institute a fair housing training program for its employees.

Complex owner would not allow woman to transfer to larger apartment

Anna Ambruster, a 70-year-old heart patient who had lived at Heritage Park for eight years, received an eviction notice after she requested to be transferred to a larger apartment at the complex so that she could have a live-in attendant. Ambruster was living in a one-bedroom apartment and was preparing to undergo open heart surgery.

Doctors told Ambruster that she would require 24-hour assistance following the surgery and requested that she get a live-in nurse. The managers of Heritage Park refused to allow Ambruster to move into a two-bedroom unit.

Complainant gets eviction papers after speaking to a civil rights attorney

Ambruster contacted the Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing (MCFH) in Palo Alto, California, explaining that the complex had refused to transfer her to a larger apartment. Winter Dellenbach, MCFH's Senior Fair Housing Specialist, contacted Heritage Park's owner,  Gemma Hwang. Dellenbach spoke to Hwang and requested that she allow Ambruster to transfer to a larger apartment under the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988.

Hwang refused Dellenbach's request and served Ambruster with eviction papers, only eight days before her surgery, putting Ambruster under considerable stress. The MCFH continued to work quickly to resolve the situation.

Dellenbach contacted Hwang again and asked that she rescind the eviction notice until after Ambruster's surgery. Hwang refused to rescind the eviction notice.

Complex owners halted eviction proceedings when woman filed federal fair housing lawsuit

MCFH referred Ambruster to Scott Chang, a local attorney. Chang filed a complaint in federal district court in San Jose which alleged violations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act, which protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in housing. When the lawsuit was filed against her, Hwang agreed to halt the eviction proceedings againstAmbruster.

Unfortunately, Anna Ambruster died during her open heart surgery at Stanford University Hospital in September 1996. She had been under considerable stress. Ambruster's children continued the lawsuit in her name. Ambruster's heirs will receive a $47,500 award from the settlement.

Hwang and the managers at Heritage Park admitted no wrongdoing.

from September 1997 Advocate