Deborah Patterson has at last settled her disability discrimination claim against The Pines of Cloverlane apartment complex for an undisclosed amount. Patterson’s initial request for modification to the door and sidewalk outside her building came in late 1994. Final work on the sidewalk wasn’t completed until the fall of 1997. The settlement ends Patterson’s long battle to gain independent access to her apartment building.
Patterson sued the Balcor Company in February 1996, after her attempts to negotiate with the management failed. When the Pittsfield Township complex was sold, the new owners, Equity Residential Properties Trust, were added to the suit. Although Patterson rents a barrier-free unit, prior to the modifications she was unable to open the door to her building without assistance. Once through the door, Patterson was forced to contend with a narrow sidewalk in poor repair that lacked adequate safety barriers and rails. Non-disabled tenants in Patterson’s building use the stairs at the front of the complex.
During the three-year fight, Patterson vowed to Fair Housing Center staff that she would never give up. Patterson, joined by fellow members of disability rights group ADAPT, picketed the Michigan Avenue complex, now known as The Pines, throughout the summer and fall of 1996. “I found it interesting that while the new owners rushed to paint and re-side complex building and even resurface the tennis courts, they wouldn’t provide a tenant with basic access to her building,” noted ADAPT member and FHC Board member Bob Liston.
Fair Housing Center Cooperating Attorneys Gayle Rosen from Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service and Kathy Peterson filed the law suit in Washtenaw County Circuit Court alleging violations of the Michigan Handicappers’ Civil Rights Act. The case was later handled by Rose and Mary Michalak, also of Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service. The case was originally assigned to Judge Melinda M. Morris.