Trial for Cat Owner Threatened With Eviction
CHICAGO (CN) - A jury must hear claims from a woman who faced eviction from her condominium because she keeps cats to cope with emotional anxiety, a federal judge ruled.
In 2008, Condominiums of Edelweiss discovered that Barbara Myers kept cats in her unit, in violation of its no-pet policy. She had kept at least one cat in her Palos Park, Ill., apartment for 11 years without any complaints, but Condominiums demanded their immediate removal and threatened Myers with eviction.
Myers responded with a letter from her doctor stating that she needed the cats to help with her various mental and emotional illnesses, making it medically necessary under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Condominiums then tried to evict Myers in state court, but a judge ruled after a 2010 bench trial that Myers' need for the cat outweighed any harm Condominiums suffered.
Her husband died that year and Myers then filed a federal complaint against Condominiums and its Board of Managers under Fair Housing Act (FHA). U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman denied either party summary judgment in 2011.
In ensuing discovery, Myers told the court that she had been physically and sexually abused as a child by her father and brother. She says her two cats, Mr. Kitty and Carmel Cream, help her with her anxiety, and through events like the death of her husband.
When Myers is separated from her cats, she has a friend watch them and calls every day to check on their safety.
In preparation for trial, Myers underwent psychological evaluations by her own expert psychologist, and defendants' expert, both of whom found that she had a significant problem with anxiety that interferes with her ability to function normally.
A psychologist for the defense opined, however, that Myer's mental condition does not qualify as a disability.
Judge Feinerman refused either party summary judgment again last week, clearing the way for a jury trial.
"Myers's motion is denied because there are genuine disputes as to whether she qualifies as an individual with a disability for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2), as well as whether her requested accommodation - keeping cats in her unit in contravention of the no-pet policy - was reasonable and necessary," the 17-page opinion states.
As to the defendants, Feinerman noted that their "decision to pursue an eviction action instead of other, less disruptive alternatives, considered along with their knowledge of Myers's fragile emotional health, raises a triable question as to whether defendants abused their authority in a manner rising to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct."
The judge agreed with Condominiums, however, that Myers cannot sue the association for negligent infliction of emotional distress on top of her allegation of intentional emotional distress.