Article Courtesy of The Naples
April 17, 2013
— Pickup trucks parked in driveways are a no-no in many gated communities
But when the truck belongs to a paralyzed man
and it’s rigged with a wheelchair lift, making it too high and wide to fit
in a garage, it falls under higher laws than condo association rules.
Instead of branding it a violation, it should
have been considered a “reasonable accommodation” for 36-year-old Jason
Cain, who lived in Madison Park in East Naples. Yet the condo association
warned: “Make the vehicle fit or remove it from the property.”
Those are the allegations in a
lawsuit filed by the state Attorney General’s Office,
which has sued the Quincy Square at Madison Park
Condominium Association and its former president, John
Flynn, in Collier circuit court.
Unable to work out an agreement,
Cain and his parents, Alice and Robert, his caregivers,
moved to Sarasota.
“I was really confused and really
didn’t understand why I would have complaints against me
and seven or eight other truck owners didn’t,” Jason
Cain said this past week as he sat in his wheelchair in
his former Clemson Street neighborhood. “Then it dawned
on me. Either (Flynn) thought I was a liability or just
didn’t want someone in a wheelchair there.”
Just feet away, a red pickup sat in
the driveway next to the condo they’d once rented.
“There’s no excuse for it in
this day and age,” Alice Cain said of discrimination
against disabled people. “It’s unheard of.
“We were told there was no problem
with parking trucks outside,” she said of consulting
with the management office before moving in. “It was
association’s new attorney, Chris Davies of
surviving a 2007 motorcycle accident, former Naples resident Jason
Cain found himself battling with the Quincy Square at Madison Park
Condominium Association in East Naples over his
wheelchair-accessible truck being parked in the driveway. The
association issued several violations and filed a complaint with a
state agency to have him evicted. That was halted after he and his
parents, his caregivers, filed a complaint with U.S. Housing and
Urban Development department, which referred it to the Florida
Commission on Human Relations. The agency found he’d been
discriminated against and the state Attorney General’s Office
recently sued the association on his behalf.
declined to comment due to the pending lawsuit. He doesn’t represent Flynn
and said the condo board voted to recall Flynn, who no longer is president.
Flynn couldn’t be reached for comment
in Naples or at his Mentor, Ohio, home despite repeated attempts. The
current president declined to comment.
It’s the first time since 2005 that the
Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit in Collier County to correct
what it considers a housing violation.
The lawsuit contends Jason Cain, who was
paralyzed from the chest down after a 2007 motorcycle accident, sought a
“reasonable and necessary” accommodation, but the association
“intentionally and willfully” ignored his rights through illegal actions
that harmed him, the public and state.
“By requesting permission to allow
Jason Cain to park his wheelchair-accessible vehicle outside the garage,
when defendants knew that the vehicle couldn’t fit in his garage ... Cain
sought an accommodation that was reasonable and necessary on account of his
handicap,” the lawsuit contends.
The denial prevented him from enjoying
the condo and violated Florida’s Fair Housing Act, according to the
lawsuit, which asks a judge to find the association violated the act, issue
an injunction barring further violations and compensate Jason Cain.
Florida courts have treated parking
requests as a “reasonable accommodation,” placing that responsibility on
a housing provider, even if it involves a cost or the policy doesn’t allow
assigned parking spaces or there’s a waiting list for spaces.
The lawsuit stems from a complaint Alice
Cain filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
She’d snapped photos and gone door-to-door with questionnaires to gather
proof that the association’s president, vice president and others parked
trucks, vans and vehicles in their driveways and that other garages were
used for storage — yet those residents hadn’t received violation
HUD referred the case to the Florida
Commission on Human Relations, which found there was reasonable cause to
believe a discriminatory housing practice occurred.
That halted a complaint the condo
association filed against the Cains, seeking arbitration through the state
Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The association, which
alleged the Cains were parking a truck outside and using the garage for
storage, sought a permanent injunction to prohibit that.
The Cains’ response contended he was
entitled to a reasonable accommodation.
The state said another agency had to make
that determination and gave them 10 days to file a fair housing complaint
with the government.
“People with disabilities aren’t asking for
special treatment when they request reasonable accommodations,” said
Shantae Goodloe, a HUD spokeswoman. “Ground-floor rooms, designated
parking spaces and ramps may be necessary to conduct everyday activities and
gain independence in their daily lives.”
* * * * *
At Quincy Square, off Davis Boulevard, rules prohibit
trucks and vans from parking on driveways, except for service and delivery
Yet the Cains say they’d checked and Guardian
Property Management told them no rules prohibited that. They signed a lease
in February 2010. Six months later, a violation sticker was slapped on Jason
Cain’s truck, warning it must be in the garage.
Alice Cain went to the property managers, who knew
their situation from their last development. She said she was assured there
would be no problem.
Yet the warnings continued and more violations were
added. The association’s then-attorney, Robert Samouce, wrote to warn
about their trucks and another disagreement between the Cains and Flynn.
Alice Cain consulted with attorney William Morris, who
wrote to Samouce, accusing the association of discriminating against a
handicapped man. Morris warned that it violated the Federal Fair Housing Act
and Americans with Disabilities Act and demanded that the “harassment
cease immediately” or face legal action.
“Your letter is little more than an extension of
harassment by the association,” Morris wrote in January 2011.
The association filed its state complaint against the
Cains that April.
While Alice Cain was asking neighbors to fill out
questionnaires, a neighbor who is a lawyer offered to mediate the dispute
and they reached an agreement, she said, but Flynn rejected their terms.
“I wanted the board to be trained, to become
educated about this,” Jason Cain said.
His mother, who said the lawsuit is about rights for
the handicapped, not money, added: “We don’t want this to happen to