Wareham man awarded $15,000 in discrimination lawsuit
Wareham resident Robert DaSilva has been awarded $15,000 in damages after filing a discrimination complaint against New Depot Crossing's management, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Tuesday.
The defendants – New Depot Crossing, Hallkeen Management, Inc., and property manager Dianne Callahan – have agreed to pay a total of $20,000, including $15,000 in damages to the tenant and $5,000 to the Commonwealth.
An additional $5,000 will be suspended pending the defendant’s compliance with the terms of the settlement, which requires New Depot Crossing to institute a comprehensive fair housing and anti-discrimination policies and train staff on fair housing rights.
DaSilva moved into New Depot Crossing, located at 125 Minot Ave., in 2014. He is blind, and brought his dog, who assisted him with mobility, and two cats which served as emotional support animals for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The arrangement quickly went south, with DaSilva alleging that the defendants rushed to court seeking an order to remove his assistance animals, rather than speaking with DaSilva and working out a solution, as required by law. The complaint further alleged that the defendants, by doing so, had denied DaSilva’s request for a reasonable accommodation, according to the attorney general's office.
The original complaint filed noted that, when DaSilva moved into New Depot Crossing, he was unaware that he needed approval of his pets as no paperwork was included in the lease, nor did Callahan mention it, according to the attorney general. In April of that year, he received a “notice of dog” removal demanding that he remove the animals from the apartment.
Though DaSilva sent a doctor’s note informing the defendant of his blindness, the note was deemed inadequate verification. The defendants requested a hearing, and told DaSilva that if he couldn’t make the hearing, he and his animals would be removed from his home. Given three days notice of the hearing, DaSilva was unable to attend.
On May 12, the Southeast Housing Court granted a request to remove DaSilva’s animals (including his two cats). DaSilva had already given his dog to the pound, believing he would be evicted. The dog was later put down.
DaSilva gave his two cats to a friend and moved out of the apartment in December of 2014. The filed complaint states that he experienced increased anxiety and stress due to the less of companionship of his dog and his cats of 10 years.