Orrick Attorneys Ethan Scapellati, Stacy Harrison, and Michael Liever Defend Multi-Diagnosed Client Against Unlawful Eviction and Disability Discrimination

“RB” is 55 years old and a long-time survivor of HIV and Stage 4 cancer. She has been disabled for many years, often needing a wheelchair to get around. RB had been living in a non-rent control apartment for six years; a quiet tenant who always paid her rent on time.

With her health deteriorating and preparing for an upcoming surgery, RB approached her landlords for permission to add a tenant as a live-in aide. She had already been approved to receive government subsidized In-Home Support Services. The landlords, who had raised RB’s rent by a whopping 19 percent the year before, responded not with compassion or understanding, but rather by giving RB a 60-day Notice to Vacate —a heartless and pretty clear violation of anti-disability discrimination laws as well.

With everything else going on in her life, RB now faced the prospect of losing her housing. The AIDS Legal Services Project (ALSP) had helped RB years earlier, so she turned to the Project for assistance again. Not one to wait around for help though, RB also self-advocated by filing administrative complaints with the Housing Rights Center and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

ALSP also recognized the urgency of the matter and turned to Orrick, one of our strongest law firm supporters, which quickly assembled a team of attorneys including two partners (litigation and real property) and an associate. 

RB is emotionally strong and resilient. She has had to be.  Within weeks of the eviction notice, she found a nicer apartment, closer to her doctor, and was able to move out of a toxic housing situation prior to the end of the 60-Day Notice. With the eviction defense behind them, the Orrick team—Ethan Scapellati, Stacy Harrison and Michael Liever – were able to focus on the landlords’ discriminatory actions and filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Over the course of a year, with many ups and downs, Orrick and DFEH attorneys advocated for RB and were finally able to reach a favorable settlement just prior to the end of the statute of limitations to file in court. RB received a $12,000 check and the landlords were required to attend many years of landlord training and post signs in the building that it is illegal to discriminate against people living with disabilities.

Mr. Scapellati, thought it was a “fantastic” experience and RB has sent numerous thank you cards and emails including the note below:

“Dearest Laurie, you are terrific! Thank you for leading me to Orrick law firm to assist me in my housing disability discrimination case.  Good news…we won the mediation case to my favor… it became a victory for all disabled people in the state of California.  Wow!  DFEH laid down heavy complaint rules with the former landlords.  Both husband and wife must go to 4 years of landlord training along with posting signs in the building that it is illegal to discriminate against disabled people, and there were more mandates.  All of this was possible thanks to you! You helped connect me with a terrific law firm and my attorney Mr. Ethan Scapellati, was amazing! …With much gratitude.  RB”