Apartment elevators not maintained, wheelchair user's complaints unheeded. $5.25M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Disabled person stranded in apartment because elevators frequently don't work.

The Case

  • Case Name: Chris Curry v. Academy Pointe, Inc., et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC621282
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, November 17, 2017
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, May 20, 2016
  • Type of Action: Unruh Act Violations
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Gregory Alarcon
  • Plaintiffs:
    Chris Curry, 34, self-employed graphic designer and video editor.
  • Defendants:
    Academy Pointe, Inc. (the owner of the apartment complex).
    Anza Management Company (the property management company).
    J.K. Residential Services, Inc. (the asset manager for Academy Pointe, Inc.).
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $5,250,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $750,000 in noneconomic damages, jointly, and severally against Academy Pointe, Anza, and J.K.;

    $4,500,000 in punitive damages, jointly and severally against, Academy Pointe and J.K.

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $750,000

  • Punitive Damages:

    $4,500,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 2 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: Approximately 5 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Reisman & Reisman by Daniel A. Reisman, Los Angeles.

    Law Office of John J. Perlstein by John J. Perlstein, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Law Office of Jeffrey W. Korn by Jeffrey W. Korn, Los Angeles. (For Academy Pointe, Inc., Anza Management Company, and J.K. Residential Services., Inc.)

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Chris Curry has a condition that has left him completely reliant on an electric wheelchair for mobility since infancy. Chris moved into Villa California Apartments, which are owned by defendant Academy Pointe, Inc., in North Hollywood in October 2014. Other than the rent being affordable, a major reason for his decision to move there was the fact that the complex has three elevators. The complex doesn't have any ground floor units, but Chris figured that at least one elevator would always be working.

    When the elevators failed to operate, plaintiff sued for failure to accommodate his disability under the FEHA and the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    One of the elevators was inoperable for a year. Then, starting in about the beginning of 2015, a second one started malfunctioning fairly frequently, and then it was followed by the third one in about July 2015. 

    At first, Chris would have to call the maintenance worker to turn the elevator on when he wanted to get upstairs. Then, the maintenance worker stopped responding. 

    Ultimately, Chris found himself stranded outside and inside his apartment on numerous occasions. He had no choice but to call the fire department to carry him and his wheelchair up the stairs over six times, which he found both terrifying and humiliating. And then, he was stranded upstairs in his apartment for all of Thanksgiving weekend in 2015. 

    The complex has 211 units and collects over $270,000 a month in rent, and the problems with the elevators had been developing over the past several years, but the owners couldn't be bothered with fixing them. It wasn't until the complex was cited twice in August 2015 by the City of L.A. for failing to have a working elevator that they finally took some action, and even then it took them about four months to get all three elevators fixed.  

    The total cost to fix the elevators was $26,000 – less than ten percent of one month's rent.

     

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    One elevator was always working, and even if it wasn’t, all three were only down for very short periods of time.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress.

Additional Notes

The case turned on the fact that there was documentary evidence in the form of emails and citations from the City of Los Angeles, which contradicted the defendants’ claim that all three elevators were never down simultaneously. This along with video clips of key defense witnesses’ deposition testimony had a substantial negative impact on their credibility.

Additionally, the emails and citations, which were all admitted into evidence by stipulation, clearly showed that the elevators had been in a state of disrepair going all the way back to 2011.

Further, it was clear that Mr. Curry testified truthfully.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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