Justice Department Joins Trujillos In Suit Against Condo
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 14, 2004
GLENVIEW, ILLINOIS--The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has joined a federal anti-discrimination suit against a condominium complex for forcing a boy who uses a wheelchair to enter through a rear service entrance.
The family of 9-year-old Jaime Trujillo filed the suit in U.S. District Court against the president and board of directors of the Triumvera Tower Condominium Association on March 15. Claudio and Luz Trujillo accused the association of violating their son's rights under 1998 amendments to the federal Fair Housing Act.
According to Access Living, which represents the Trujillos, the family was told before they moved into the condominium last September that condo policy does not allow furniture, strollers or wheelchairs to enter through the front entrance because they might damage the doors. The Trujillos said that they did not openly protest the rule at first for fear of being denied a home.
The family said they tried to follow the policy, which directed them to use a rear entrance, until they found the route was barely wide enough for Jaime's wheelchair.
The Trujillos decided to use the front entrance, with the hopes that board members and other residents would see that Jaime's wheelchair does not cause damage to doors. This was met, however, with a letter from the association directing them again to use the rear entrance. On another occasion, the board president allegedly ordered a building maintenance worker to physically block the front door to keep Jaime and his nurse from entering, then threatened to fine the Trujillos $50 each time the boy came through the front entrance.
"My son is not a piece of furniture. He is a human," Claudio Trujillo told the Chicago Tribune in March. "He is entitled to every right."
The suit seeks a change in the policy, along with unspecified monetary damages for the Trujillos and anyone else who was harmed by it.
According to a DOJ statement, the condo association has agreed to suspend the policy while the lawsuit is pending in District Court.
"The law demands fair treatment in housing for individuals with disabilities," R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, said in the statement. "Forcing residents who use wheelchairs to enter their home through the back door is demeaning and far less than they deserve."