Victory for Fair Housing Act plaintiff

The plaintiff in this case sued the New York City Housing Authority for disability discrimination relating to unhealthy conditions at her home. The district court dismissed the case under Rule 12, but the Court of Appeals reinstates the case, finding plaintiff satisfies the stringent Iqbal pleading standards.

The case is Tull v. New York City Housing Authority, a summary order issued on February 14. This is a failure to accommodate claim. Plaintiff has to show “(1) [s]he is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) the defendant is subject to one of the Acts; and (3) [s]he was denied the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the defendant's services, programs, or activities, or was otherwise discriminated against by the defendant because of [her] disability.” We focus on the third element.

While the Housing Authority argues that plaintiff cannot plausibly allege she was denied of the benefit of her apartment because of her disabilities, the Court of Appeals (Sack, Livingston and Carney) disagrees, stating:

Tull plausibly alleged, first, that living in her current apartment seriously exacerbates her medical conditions. She further alleged that NYCHA failed to accommodate her medical disability by denying her multiple requests to be transferred to a different apartment, either permanently, or on a temporary basis while necessary repairs were made to her current apartment. Tull repeatedly informed NYCHA that she cannot be present during “asbestos abatement[,] ․ the breaking down of walls and the removal of mold,” and that she must be “medically accommodated to make such repairs,” otherwise the repairs “will make [her] more ill.” Tull also attached letters from her doctors which confirm that “[i]t is very crucial for this high risk stroke patient to be transferred to new housing location with proper accommodations for her medical conditions.”

The Housing Authority also says plaintiff's requested accommodation is unreasonable. Again, the Court of Appeals sees it differently. "Notably, NYCHA's own Standard Procedure Manual explicitly recognizes a 'Transfer as a Reasonable Accommodation.' And in any case, the reasonableness of Tull's request cannot be determined on her pleadings alone. See Austin v. Town of Farmington, 826 F.3d 622, 630 (2d Cir. 2016) (“Reasonableness analysis is ‘highly fact-specific’ ․ [and] cannot be determined on the pleadings because the relevant factors are numerous and balancing them requires a full evidentiary record.”)."