On December 17, 2019, Relman, Dane & Colfax filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that a powerful neighborhood association discriminated against a Chicago family attempting to renovate a single family home to make it accessible for their daughter.

Plaintiffs in this case are Ava Deakin, a 14-year-old who uses a wheelchair and other assistive devices for mobility, and her parents Bill Deakin and Lisa Diehlmann. In 2015, Bill and Lisa purchased a dilapidated home in Chicago’s Old Town Triangle—a historic district—with plans to renovate it as a barrier-free home with an elevator and a garage to provide a pathway into the home that would shield Ava from the elements. After consultation with an architect sensitive to historic preservation concerns, the family secured approvals from every relevant City and State agency, including the Illinois Historic Preservation Division, the City’s Landmarks Commission, and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The complaint alleges that the Defendant Old Town Triangle Association (OTTA) discriminated on the basis of disability, making housing unavailable for more than a year, making discriminatory statements and launching a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and interference has prevented the family from completing their renovations. As referenced in the Complaint, OTTA officials made their discriminatory intent clear through statements such as the following:

  • “I understand that the people who purchased the house have a child that requires special needs. What I don’t understand is why they chose to buy a house in a Landmark Zone when you have those needs. I don’t mean to be heartless or uncaring but this is not the neighborhood for that.”
  • “Why would a family with your needs buy a house in a neighborhood like ours?”
  • “This is not the neighborhood for your family.”

The complaint alleges that OTTA’s campaign has resulted in multiple acts of vandalism of the property and profane confrontations with construction workers. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin OTTA from continuing its discriminatory campaign and to compensate Plaintiffs for their economic and other injuries resulting from OTTA’s discriminatory practices.

The firm’s litigation team is led by Michael Allen and Tahir Duckett. In addition, Ken Walden and Mary Rosenberg of Access Living are co-counsel.

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