LAMBS FARM SUED FOR EXCLUDING
MAN BECAUSE OF HIV-POSITIVE STATUS
Equip for Equality seeks damages
and injunction for man who had lived and worked at Lambs Farm for
(CHICAGO, SEPTEMBER 27, 2005) - Equip for Equality today filed suit
in federal court against The Lambs Farm, Inc. of Libertyville,
Illinois, on behalf of a 54-year old man with a developmental
disability whom Lambs Farm refuses to serve because he is HIV
positive. Lambs Farm is a non-profit organization located on a
72-acre campus in Libertyville that provides housing, vocational and
recreational services to adults with developmental disabilities.
The suit alleges that Lambs Farm's refusal to admit Doe to its
services is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the
federal Rehabilitation Act, and the federal Fair Housing Act.
"John Doe" received services from Lambs Farm from the time he was a
young man, and was close to the founders, Bob Terese and Corinne
Owen. After moving out of state in 2003 to be with his terminally
ill mother, Doe returned to Illinois in 2004 with the intention of
returning to Lambs Farm. So confident was his mother that Doe
would be received warmly by Lambs Farm that she set up a trust for
him which provided that upon his death the assets of the trust would
go to Lambs Farm.
Lambs Farm initially welcomed Doe back and proceeded to process his
application for services, including housing. Lambs Farm staff even
took him to see the apartment that would be his when the processing
of his application was completed. However, when Lambs Farm reviewed
the medical packet sent by the agency assisting Doe, its management
became aware that Doe was HIV-positive.
Doe's application was immediately rejected. Lambs Farm's Executive
Director, Dianne Yaconetti, expressed concern that others would find
out about Doe's HIV status and would be fearful. The Chairman of
the Board of Directors, Robert Neiman, confirmed that Lambs Farm
would provide neither housing nor vocational services to Doe because
of his "communicable disease."
Doe, who regularly takes medication for his HIV without assistance,
has no symptoms. "All I wanted to do was go back to Lambs Farm,"
says Doe, who does not understand how he could be rejected by "the
Lambs" when he has done nothing wrong and poses no threat to
"Lambs Farm's categorical refusal to serve Doe based on his HIV
status is a clear violation of the federal laws prohibiting
discrimination based on disability," says Karen Ward, Senior Counsel
at Equip for Equality and one of the attorneys representing Doe.
"Lambs Farm's actions are based upon the very stereotypes and
unfounded fears that these laws were designed to address."
"For a well-known community agency that claims to be devoted to the
empowerment of people with disabilities, this attitude is
particularly shocking and disheartening," says Zena Naiditch,
President and CEO of Equip for Equality. "Twenty-five years after
the emergence of AIDS in this country, and fifteen years after the
passage of the ADA, we certainly did not expect to see such
ill-informed decision-making. We are hopeful that the federal court
will quickly bring an end to this injustice."
The suit seeks an order compelling Lambs Farm to admit John Doe to
its vocational and residential programs, as well as compensatory and
punitive damages and attorneys fees.
Equip for Equality, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit organization
whose mission is to advance the rights of people with physical or
mental disabilities, including development disabilities and mental
illnesses, in Illinois through self-advocacy assistance, education,
legal services and public policy initiatives. It is designated by
the Governor as the state's protection and advocacy system with
broad statutory powers to safeguard the rights of people with
disabilities pursuant to federal law.
A copy of the complaint is available on Equip for Equality's
Reference: John Doe v. The Lambs Farm, Inc.
U.S. District Court, Northern District of
Case No. 05-C-5564