Family That Lost in Eviction Court Asserts and Settles Fair Housing Claims For $85,000

Southern California Housing Rights Center
Contact: Gary Rhoades
213-387-8400 x 32
For Immediate Release May 12, 2003

(INGLEWOOD, Calif., May 12, 2003) -- A settlement has been reached in a case where the manager of an apartment complex in Inglewood, California allegedly subjected an African-American family to adverse treatment and racial slurs. Paired tests by the Housing Rights Center also supported the allegations. However, the plaintiff family had already lost their Unlawful Detainer in state court, raising possible issues of res judicata or collateral estoppel.

In Housing Rights Center et al v. Cobian et al (Calif. Superior Court No. BC 273483) the Housing Rights Center and the African-American family sued the landlords and manager in state court in May of 2002, alleging that defendants discriminated against applicants on the basis of race in the operation of the complex.

Specifically, the complaint alleged that defendants ratified the conduct of their on-site manager who made racial slurs and targeted the plaintiff family for eviction. The plaintiffs lost their unlawful detainer case and then later with the Housing Rights Center’s representation, filed the discrimination claims.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Danielle Jones of the Housing Rights Center stated, “This case is important because it demonstrates that a tenant who has lost an unlawful detainer case won’t be barred from asserting bona fide discrimination claims and settling those claims against the offending property owner. Unlawful detainer court is not an adequate forum for victims of housing discrimination to have their claims heard because of the tenant’s defensive posture. Regardless of the results in eviction proceedings, a tenant’s legitimate discrimination claim should not be overshadowed by the results of the eviction process.”

On March 25, 2003, after a mediation through retired Judge Diane Wayne, all parties reached a written agreement under which the defendants must pay plaintiffs $85,000 and enter into a fair housing training program.

The plaintiffs were represented by attorney Areva Martin of the Law Firm of Bolden & Martin in Los Angeles and HRC attorneys Danielle Jones and Gary Rhoades.