Man Settles Federal Fair Housing Act Lawsuit for More Than $160,000

Contact: John Z. Lee, Freeborn & Peters: (312) 360-6738
Sharon K. Legenza, Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc., (312) 630-9744
Chicago, Illinois--(January 17, 2002)-- Today, the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc., and the law firm of Freeborn & Peters, announced that a settlement has been reached in a federal Fair Housing Act lawsuit filed on behalf of Michael Scialabba, a disabled young man; his parents, James and Barbara Scialabba; and HOPE Fair Housing Center against the Sierra Blanca Condominium Number One Association in Hanover Park, Illinois, and ABC Property Managers, Inc.

Under the general terms of the settlement, the Condominium Association and Property Manager agree to pay $110,000 to the Scialabbas, HOPE Fair Housing Center, and their attorneys, and to take measures to prevent and eradicate discrimination against any current or future resident at Sierra Blanca on the basis of the individual's actual or perceived disability. The defendants also agreed to purchase an annuity for Michael Scialabba's benefit.

In 1984, Michael, who was 16 years old at the time, suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident. As a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident, Michael's speech and movements are impaired, causing him to have difficulty speaking and to walk unsteadily.

The lawsuit, alleged, among other things, that the Condominium Association and Property Manager failed to reasonably accommodate Michael's disability in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, and that the association failed to follow its own rules and regulations in violation of the Illinois Condominium Property Act.

The federal court made two important rulings prior to the case settling. First, the court determined that housing providers have a duty to make good faith efforts to accommodate disabled residents before they attempt to remove them from units. This is true even if a landlord or association contends that a disabled resident may pose a direct threat to the property, health or safety of others. To escape liability, a housing provider must show that it attempted to reasonably accommodated the resident's disability and that the resident remained a direct threat despite these accommodations before it attempts to force the resident out. If an accommodation could eliminate the risk posed by a resident considered to be a threat, a housing provider must provide that accommodation.

Second, the court determined that the Illinois Condominium Property Act allows a cause of action based on negligence, meaning that an association may be held liable for negligently failing to follow its declaration, by-laws, rules and regulations.

For 32 years, the Chicago Lawyers' Committee, through its 40-plus member law firms and staff lawyers, has provided free legal services to challenge discrimination and other violations of civil rights in both the public and private sectors. Sharon K. Legenza, Fair Housing Project Director for the Chicago Lawyers' Committee, represented the plaintiffs in this case along with John Z. Lee, a partner in Freeborn & Peters. Freeborn & Peters is a national law firm headquartered in downtown Chicago. With over 100 attorneys, the Firm specializes in business litigation, corporate and business services, and government relations.

HOPE Fair Housing Center is a not-for-profit corporation located in Wheaton, Illinois, dedicated to promoting equal housing opportunities through education, research, outreach, enforcement, training and advocacy

For further information about the Fair Housing Project, call Ms. Legenza or visit the website: