Written by: Sam Orlando
CHRISTIANSBURG, VIRGINIA - In a significant legal development, Debra Long, an elderly and disabled resident of Christiansburg, Virginia, has filed a lawsuit against her former landlord, Marie March, and Big Bear Properties, LLC, alleging severe discrimination and harassment. The case, filed under case number 7:23-cv-00777 in the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia, details a series of disturbing events that Long endured during her tenancy.
Background of the Case
Long, who is over sixty years old and suffers from disabilities, moved into an apartment owned by Big Bear Properties in March 2022, according to her complaint. Her disabilities necessitate a Medicaid-approved caregiver, a role fulfilled by her grandson. However, soon after moving in, Long faced harassment from a maintenance employee, Earnest Smith, who also lived in the same complex. Smith's behavior escalated from peeping to exposing himself and making threats, as detailed in the complaint.
Allegations of Negligence and Retaliation
Despite reporting these incidents to her landlord, March allegedly dismissed Long's concerns and took no action. The complaint further accuses March of retaliating against Long by filing trespassing charges against her grandson and refusing to change the locks on Long's apartment, leaving her vulnerable to Smith's access.
Violation of Tenancy Rights
The lawsuit outlines how March denied Long's request to have her grandson stay overnight, crucial for her care, despite allowing other non-disabled tenants similar privileges. This decision left Long alone and unable to care for herself adequately.
Severe Emotional and Physical Impact
The complaint states that Long was forced to leave her apartment due to the ongoing harassment and discrimination, leading to significant emotional distress, exacerbating her physical disabilities, and causing her to develop major depression disorder and PTSD.
Legal Action for Justice
Long, through her lawsuit, seeks justice for violations of the Fair Housing Act, the Virginia Fair Housing Law, and Virginia common law. She alleges that the defendants' actions were discriminatory against her age and disability.
A Call for Accountability
This lawsuit highlights critical issues of elder care, disability rights, and tenant protection. Long's case brings to light the challenges faced by vulnerable populations in securing safe and dignified living conditions.
Continuing Legal Battle
As the case progresses, it will undoubtedly shed light on the systemic issues surrounding tenant rights and the responsibilities of landlords towards elderly and disabled tenants. The outcome of this case could set a precedent for future housing discrimination lawsuits.