In the early 2000s, “Viola Kent,” a healthy, 25-year-old woman with a bright future, moved into public housing when she became physically disabled as a result of a knee injury she sustained at work. Her plan was to stay there temporarily and go to school while she recuperated.
Ms. Kent’s apartment was in such disrepair, however, that it made her seriously ill. Poor conditions, including excessive heat, dust, and fumes, made it difficult for her to breathe, exacerbated her asthma and allergies, and caused her significant stress. In 2013, she had a stroke that permanently impaired her vision and further compromised her mobility.
Ms. Kent’s medical team stated that her “housing accommodations aggravate her health condition[s]” and concluded that it was “very crucial for this high risk stroke patient to be transferred to [a] new housing location with proper accommodations for her medical conditions.” Ms. Kent made many requests to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for an apartment transfer, but NYCHA ignored her. She then suffered a second stroke, as her doctors had warned she might.
Ms. Kent sued claiming discrimination on the basis of her disability. The trial court dismissed her case, but the ACLU Disability Rights Project appealed the decision, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated her claims.
After the appeal, the ACLU referred the case to the firm to pursue in the trial court. The firm argued that NYCHA’s failure to provide Ms. Kent with a reasonable accommodation had resulted in significant psychological and emotional harm, caused or severely exacerbated her medical conditions, and stymied her efforts to complete her education and rejoin the workforce.
Through fact-finding and sustained negotiations, we worked to settle the case. In the fall of 2018, Ms. Kent moved into a new apartment more suited to her needs and received a considerable monetary settlement for the damages NYCHA had caused to her physical and emotional well-being.