Ohio jury awards $16,000 to white woman evicted for having an African-American boyfriend

In the first ever housing discrimination case to be tried in Lucas County, Ohio, a jury awarded $16,000 to an interracial couple in their claim of racial discrimination against a Toledo-area landlord.  The December 1998 jury verdict and award resolved a August 1996 lawsuit filed by Tifani Cox.

In 1996, Cox rented an apartment from James Thomas, a landlord who owns approximately 34 rental units in the Toledo area.  While living in the apartment, Cox began dating an African-American man.  Soon after their relationship began, Thomas sent Cox a letter asking her to move out of the apartment.

The Fair Housing Center in Toledo investigated Cox's discrimination complaint against Thomas.  Using paired testers, the Center uncovered evidence of discriminatory practices at Thomas' properties.

Tracy Sniderman, a Lucas County prosecutor, and C. Thomas McCarter, an Ohio civil rights attorney, represented Cox in her lawsuit.  McCarter spoke about the importance of the case.  "I think this case is significant because Mr. Thomas has been the owner of a large number of properties from 1976 to the present.  The jury was able to sift through all of the evidence and find that there was denial of housing to a white female because of her involvement with an African-American male," he said.

Lisa Rice, the executive director of the Fair Housing Center, said that "justice prevailed" in this case despite many obstacles.  She explained, "This was a complex case because the owner had rented to a small number of African-Americans.  He had never rented to an interracial couple."  Rice added that the jury understood that Cox had been treated differently than other tenants simply becuase she had an African-American boyfriend.

The Fair Housing Center said after the trial that it would seek injunctive relief against Thomas to ensure that he would not discriminate against tenants in the future.