Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll represents the Equal Rights Center (ERC) in a federal fair housing lawsuit in which the ERC challenges Equity Residential’s nationwide pattern or practice of designing and constructing multi-family housing complexes in violation of the accessibility requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.  The action challenges FHA and ADA violations at 300 Equity Residential properties, and seeks injunctive relief to ensure that Equity Residential’s properties are accessible to people with disabilities, as well as damages for the ERC’s injuries.

The Equal Rights Center is a national non-profit civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C., that promotes equal housing opportunity.  Equity Residential, a publicly traded company, is one of the largest multi-family housing developers in the nation.  The action, which was filed in 2006, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

In 2007, then-U.S. District Judge M. Andre Davis denied Equity Residential’s motion to dismiss the action.  In a published decision, Judge Davis held the ERC’s allegations were sufficient to show that the ERC has organizational standing to challenge Equity Residential’s nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination, and that venue is proper in the District of Maryland.  The Equal Rights Center v. Equity Residential, 483 F. Supp. 2d 482 (D. Md. 2007).  A copy of that decision can be found here

In 2011, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake denied Equity Residential’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of the ERC’s standing to pursue this action, concluding that the ERC suffered injuries by identifying and combating Equity Residential’s nationwide pattern of discriminatory conduct.  Equal Rights Center v. Equity Residential, 798 F. Supp. 2d 707 (D. Md. 2011).  This summary judgment decision ensures that the ERC will have an opportunity to have this massive accessibility lawsuit decided on the merits.  A copy of the decision can be found here, and the ERC’s press release can be found here.

Cohen Milstein has been one of the leading firms to challenge violations of federal laws that mandate accessible housing for people with disabilities.  In 2005, Cohen Milstein secured a historic settlement with Archstone-Smith Trust on behalf of the ERC.  The settlement required Archstone to survey of 71 apartment complexes located in 16 states around the country and to retrofit features of the complexes to ensure the full use and enjoyment of these facilities by people with disabilities.  The Archstone settlement was by far the largest settlement of a lawsuit challenging defects in design and construction of multi-family housing under the FHA and ADA at the time of the settlement in 2005.