African American family wins $85,000 from Inglewood, Calif., apartment complex after eviction

The owners and managers of a California apartment complex have agreed to pay $85,000 to an African American family that was subjected to racial slurs and eviction. The settlement was reached after a March 25, 2003 mediation session.

Testing supported discrimination allegations

Paired tests by the Housing Rights Center supported the family’s allegations. Unfortunately, the family had already been evicted. According to the Center, this raised concerns that a fair housing claim might be barred under the legal principles of res judicata or collateral estoppel.

In Housing Rights Center v. Cobian, the Housing Rights Center and the African-American family sued the landlords and manager in state court in May 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.

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.

Housing Rights Center v. Cobian
CA Sup. Ct. No. BC 273483
Complaint filed: May 2002
Mediation Agreement reached: March 25, 2003