Sunday, August 18, 2013

Broward sues condo over alleged discrimination against woman, 90, and her service dog

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel By Susannah Bryan Published August 17, 2013 A condo on Galt Ocean Mile discriminated against a 90-year-old blind woman and her service dog Nittany, says a federal lawsuit filed this week by Broward County. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday on behalf of Dorothy Davis and her daughter Lynda, demands a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages for mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment. Officials with the Southpoint Condominium Association in Fort Lauderdale declined to comment Thursday. Lynda Davis said she hopes the lawsuit serves as a warning to anyone who might discriminate against a disabled person and their service dog. "Hopefully, it will send a message to other condo associations that they're treading on dangerous ground when they question someone's disability," she said. Lynda Davis said she bought Nittany as a puppy and future service dog for her mother, who is frail and legally blind. She paid to have Nittany trained as a service dog, but neighbors frequently yelled at the German shepherd and questioned why he was on the premises, the suit said. Lynda and Dorothy Davis, her blind 90-year-old mother, walk through a Delray Beach shopping center with Nittany, their service dog. The family has since moved to Delray Beach. Davis put her condo up for sale in November because of Southpoint's "continued harassment" and refusal to allow the dog to stay, the lawsuit says. "Ms. Davis was subjected to acts of intimidation and coercion by being repeatedly ordered out of the elevator when attempting to walk to dog; she was verbally assaulted and repeatedly asked to provide her address so fellow unit owners could complain about the dog's presence." The lawsuit seeks attorney's fees and a civil penalty against Southpoint. The possible fine could range from $16,000 to $65,000, depending on whether a court has determined the condo engaged in prior housing discrimination. Allison Curtis, who helped train Nittany, said the behavior of some condo residents left the dog with a fear of people and hampered his training. "The socialization period for puppies is from two to 10 weeks of age," she said. "During that critical time, condo owners were yelling at him. He learned from those interactions to be afraid of people." Broward to sue no-pets condo after woman claims retaliation over service dog