Lambda Legal Files Suit Against Assisted-Living Facility for Allegedly Discriminating Against HIV-Positive ResidentLambda Legal, a group that represents HIV-positive people, on Tuesday filed a law suit against the Fox Ridge assisted-living facility in North Little Rock, Ark., for allegedly evicting a resident because he is HIV-positive, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.
The Rev. Robert Franke, a retired biology and religion professor who was diagnosed with HIV in 1987, moved into Fox Ridge, which is operated by Parkstone Living Center, in February. The day after he moved into the facility, an unidentified administrator told his daughter, Sara Franke Bowling, that her "superiors" said Franke needed to be discharged from the facility "because of his HIV." Franke disclosed his HIV status on application materials before moving into the facility. The suit alleges that Parkstone violated the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act and requests a permanent injunction to prevent the facility from denying apartments or services to people living with HIV/AIDS. The suit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys' fees and costs. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele. The facility declined to comment on the suit.
Julie Munsell, a spokesperson for the state Department of Human Services, said Arkansas law allows for people who have been discharged for assisted-living facilities to remain in the facility pending a hearing if the discharge is appealed. Munsell said the department's Long-Term Care Division received notice that Franke was appealing the discharge but that the appeal was later dismissed without a hearing. According to Munsell, facilities are not permitted to discharge residents based on medical diagnoses but that some facilities have said they do not have the capacity to provide care for certain conditions. Munsell also said that Fox Ridge is "claiming that they did not admit this client so there is no need for a hearing."
Scott Schoettes, staff attorney for Lambda's HIV Project, said that Franke was not seeking medical care from Fox Ridge, although the facility does provide medical services. "He didn't require any services beyond which they were licensed to provide," Schoettes said. Franke's eviction is "particularly blatant and egregious, but unfortunately, not all that uncommon," Schoettes said, adding, "This happens all across the country. We want to send a message that this kind of discrimination is not going to be tolerated" (Satter, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 5/13). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.