West Virginia complex ordered to pay $8,370 in parking space dispute with disabled woman

Prestige Properties, Inc., the parent company of the Huntington, West Virginia-based AAA Realty, was ordered to pay more than $8,000 to settle a complaint filed by Tammy Kelly, a disabled woman who was not allowed to park in the parking space closest t o her apartment. Kelly received $1,000 in damages and the complex was ordered to pay $3,650 in attorney's fees and a $3,000 civil penalty.

Kelly moved into an apartment owned by the respondents in May 1994. She noticed that there were two off-street parking spaces near her apartment that were being used by other tenants. Kelly approached Sue Howell, the complex manager, and asked if she could be allowed to use one of the parking spaces. Howell replied that Kelly could not have either of the spaces because they were assigned to tenants by seniority. The two tenants who had been in the building for the longest time had sole use of the off-street parking spaces.

Kelly informed Howell that she did have a certified handicapped parking permit and that she did have several disabilities which made it difficult to walk from the street to her apartment. Howell said that she could not have one of the spaces. Kelly filed a complaint of disability discrimination with the Huntington Human Relations Commission on June 9, 1994, about five weeks after she moved into the apartment.

During the Commission's investigation, Howell consistently said that she would only assign parking spaces by tenant seniority. Howell also made it clear to investigators that she did not think that Kelly was really disabled even though she had received two letters from Kelly's physician explaining what her disabilities were. They included a left rotator cuff injury, lumbar disc syndrome, cervical sprain, lumbar sprain, left knee sprain, and left cervical disc syndrome.

The Commission issued a finding of Probable Cause and represented Kelly in a hearing before Huntington Administrative Law Judge Kurt Entsminger. On June 26, 1995, Judge Entsminger ruled in favor of Kelly and ordered the Respondents to pay damages. The Human Relations Commission affirmed the judge's decision and issued its final order on October 26, 1995.