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Fair Housing Claims Survive Death of a Party

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 05, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Continuing a neighborhood dispute beyond the grave, a federal appeals court said that Fair Housing Act claims survive the death of a party.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeal said in Revock v. Cowpet Bay West Condominium Association that the Act is silent about survival claims. However, in a case of first impression, the judges said that federal courts have already provided a uniform rule for survival in many cases.

"Whether a Fair Housing Act claim survives the death of a party is an issue where a uniform federal common law rule is appropriate to fulfill the 'overall purposes' of the statute," the appeals panel said.

The court then reversed a judgment and remanded the case in favor of a woman who died during the litigation and another plaintiff in the case.

Dogs on a Blog

Barbara Walters and Judith Kromenhoek had sued their condominium association, alleging the association did not accommodate their need for emotional support dogs. The association rules banned dogs and fined the women $50 a day for violating the rules.

But the battle in the condominium complex had been raging for months. Lance Talkington, a resident, had complained about the dogs on a blog. Neighbor Alfred Felice jumped in with a series of inflammatory comments.

The dog owners might be "happier in another community rather than ostracized" here, Felice wrote. When Walters and Kromenhoek ran for seats on the board, someone posted: "How can you allow 2 admitted 'certified' mentally disabled persons on the ballot for election to our board?"

Talkington reported that another neighbor heard one dog barking, adding sarcastically, "trained service dogs are specifically trained not to bark unless the owner is in imminent danger. Maybe one of the pups pooped in the owner's unit and was warning the owner to watch out?"

Parties Die, Case Lives

Although a new association board later accommodated the service animals and rescinded the fines, the plaintiffs sued for the housing violations. Walters, while the case was pending, committed suicide.

Felice and the former board president, who was named in the complaint, also died during the litigation. In the meantime, the district court granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs and denied their motions to substitute represenatives.

After resolving the survival issue, the appeals court reversed the summary judgment. The court said there were triable issues of fact about whether the board received the request for accommodations and other matters.

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