The Department of Justice has announced the settlement of a HUD election case that requires sweeping reasonable accommodation policies applicable to eight continuing care communities (also known as CCRCs) where elderly residents have access to a continuum of health care, including residential living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care.
Relman Colfax filed an administrative complaint on behalf of Ruth Gural and her son Harry Gural with HUD on August 5, 2020, alleging that the owners and operators of the RiverWoods Senior Living Community in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, violated the Fair Housing Act. That complaint alleged that after years of living peacefully in her own apartment, RiverWoods threatened to evict Ruth who had progressive memory loss and needed assistance with activities of daily living because Harry insisted on staying with her—beginning in March 2020—to provide her care and support and to protect her from COVID during the pandemic, when RiverWoods barred family, friends and private caregivers from even visiting residents.
On January 12, 2022, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a Determination and Charge in the case against Albright Care Services and Asbury Communities, Inc., operators of Riverwoods and seven other continuing care communities for discriminating against Ruth as a person with disabilities who needed support from her son who stayed with her as a live in aid throughout the COVID pandemic.
HUD said that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made it reasonable for the Gurals not to rely on third-party aides who could present a risk to Ruth’s health and would not create an undue financial and administrative burden or alter the nature of RiverWoods’ program. The Gurals elected to have the case referred to the United States Department of justice for federal court prosecution.
On April 11, 2023, the Department of Justice announced that the case had been settled, with a Consent Decree that requires Albright and Asbury to adopt reasonable accommodation policies at all eight of Asbury’s continuing care retirement communities, make changes in their Handbooks and Resident Agreements to reflect the availability of reasonable accommodations, and provide notice and training to all of Albright and Asbury’s owners, principals, executives and upper management and senior leadership, including their sales and marketing departments, about the Consent Order and the policies. Harry Gural and the Estate of Ruth Gural received $215,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees under the settlement.
The Relman Colfax team consists of Reed Colfax and Sara Pratt, with paralegal assistance from Margaret Moran.
A copy of the DOJ Complaint, Consent Decree and Press Release are here.