Resident sues EHDA after alleged fall on ramp

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency resident has sued the EHDA board after she says she fell while walking down a ramp to the parking lot at her apartment on Pine Ridge Circle.
In the lawsuit, filed Nov. 5, resident Brenda Duncan said mold or mildew growing on a ramp at her home caused her to slip and fall.
EHDA attorney Tom Banks briefed the board about the lawsuit during its regular meeting Monday.
“Our lawsuit has been turned over to the insurance company, and they will provide someone to represent us,” Banks said. “The reason you pay the insurance company is so they take care of things like this.”
Duncan said she “suddenly slipped and fell” on the ramp, on which mold or mildew was growing, and that the ramp does not have handrails.
As a result of the fall, the lawsuit alleges, Duncan “suffered serious, permanent and painful injuries.”
The lawsuit claims the housing agency was negligent by allowing the mold or mildew to accumulate, by failing to inspect the ramps for dangerous conditions and by failing to warn residents that the ramp was slippery. Duncan claims also that the housing agency failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, which require ramps to have handrails on both sides. The lawsuit said EHDA either created the hazard on the ramp or should have known about the dangerous conditions long enough to have either corrected the issue or warned residents of the danger.
As a result of the housing agency’s alleged negligence, Duncan suffered “painful and disabling injuries to her left ankle and exacerbations of pre-existing conditions some of which are permanent and which will limit her future activities.” The claim continues, adding since Duncan’s injuries “she has been rendered sick and sore in body and mind, suffered mental anguish, varying degrees of pain and has been prevented from engaging in her normal life activities.”
Duncan is seeking $250,000 in compensatory damages from the housing agency.
The housing agency has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.
When asked by a board member what he thought the outcome of the lawsuit would be, Banks said he would rather meet privately with the board to discuss it.
Board members voted unanimously to direct Banks to stay involved in the lawsuit by working with the insurance company’s attorney and to keep the board informed on the proceedings.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the board voted to increase the “flat rate” rent charged by the agency.
The change to the flat rate was in response to a mandate from the federal Housing and Urban Development Agency, which oversees all public housing agencies, EHDA Executive Director Kelly Geagly said.
“It’s not just us; it is every housing agency,” he said. “It is mandated to us to phase this in.”
The flat rate rent has to be within 80 percent of the fair market rent, Geagly said, but the mandate also said the agency could not raise the rent for existing residents by more than 35 percent of what they currently pay in rent. The process to adjust the flat rate has been difficult, Geagly said.
Members of the board unanimously approved adopting the rate increase for flat rate rent. Geagly said the housing agency still has income-based rent options available in addition to the flat rate. The new rates will take effect Jan. 1, 2015. A lawsuit filed by a resident and a federally mandated rate increase were the major topics of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of the Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency board.

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