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  • Victory for Emotional Support Animals-3rd Circuit holds Fair Housing Claim survives death of dog owner in Virgin Islands

    Appellants Barbara Walters and Judith Kromenhoek
    filed these civil rights actions under the Fair Housing Act.
    Walters and Kromenhoek sought accommodations for their
    disabilities in the form of emotional support animals, which
    were not permitted under the rules of their condominium
    association. They allege violations of their right to a
    reasonable accommodation of their disabilities, 42 U.S.C.
    § 3604(f)(3)(B), and interference with the exercise of their
    fair housing rights, 42 U.S.C. § 3617. They also allege
    supplemental territorial claims.
    Among other issues, these cases raise the question
    whether a Fair Housing Act claim survives the death of a
    party. We hold that the District Court improperly answered
    this question by applying a limited gap-filler statute,
    42 U.S.C. § 1988(a), and, in turn, territorial law. We
    conclude that the survival of claims under the Fair Housing
    Act is not governed by Section 1988(a), but rather by federal
    common law, under which a Fair Housing Act claim survives
    the death of a party. Accordingly, we will reverse the District
    Court’s grant of summary judgment against Walters executrix.

  • Can you file a QUI TAM ACTION in the U.S. Virgin Islands?

    Under the False Claims Act (FCA) a private person (relator) may bring a qui tam civil action ‘in the name of the Federal Government” against “any person, who, inter alia, “knowing presents. . . to the. . . the . . .Government… a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval.” 31 U.S.C. Section 3729(a). Most states have a False Claims statute. The Virgin Islands Legislature has not enacted a local false claims statute. Residents of the Virgin Islands however may file a qui tam action on behalf of the federal government, if federal funds are implicated.

    What is a Qui Tam Action?

    Qui tam is a type of lawsuit that a private person may bring against, an individual, a private company, or a municipal corporation (agency of the government) that is defrauding the federal government and recover funds on the behalf of the federal government. The qui tam action is filed under seal, i.e. it is kept secret, to give the U.S. Justice Department an opportunity to investigate the allegation of fraud. If the claims succeed, the relator’s share may be up to 30 percent of the proceeds of the action, plus reasonable expenses, costs, and attorneys’ fees.

  • Allowing Emotional Support Animals in “No Pet” Housing

    Many condo associations, apartment buildings and housing communities in the Virgin Islands have “No Pet” policies for owners and tenants.  However, many people with disabilities need emotional support animals to help with daily activities.  Dogs are not the only type of animals that can be assistance animals, although they are the most common.  Assistance animals do not necessarily have to be certified or specially trained.

    Federal law prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of disability.  Housing communities are not allowed to refuse or place restrictions on residency due to a disabled person’s need for an assistance animal.  Therefore, landlords and housing associations are required to make “reasonable accommodations” to allow disabled persons an equal opportunity to enjoy housing, even in communities with “No Pets” policies in place.  A person with a disability can request accommodations for any assistance animal.  If a person with a disability can show a link between his or her disability and the need for the animal, they may be entitled to an exception from the “No Pets” policy if the proper request is made to the housing community.  This is rightly so, as emotional support assistance animals are not pets – they provide vital emotional support to persons with disabilities. Our Firm has litigated these types of issues so please call for a consultation.