Mar 22, 2009

Expiration of Housing Voucher Does Not Toll Limitations Period

In Ortega v. Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville, 572 F.Supp.2d 829, (S.D. Tex. 2008) the Plaintiff's application for a housing voucher expired when he was unable to prove legal guardianship of his grandson. The Plaintiff alleged discrimination based on familial status in violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 3602(k). This section defines "familial status" as "one or more individuals...being domiciled with (1) a parent or another person having legal custody of such individual or individuals; or (2) the designee or such parent or other person having such custody, with the written permission of such parent or other person.

The court had to decide whether the two year limitations period began to run on July 19, 2004 when the housing voucher was issued by the agency or whether it began to run on December 21, 2004 when the agency issued a letter to inform the Plaintiff that the voucher had expired and his application was canceled. The Plaintiff filed suit in December of 2006.

The Plaintiff argues that because he was injured again in May of 2006 when he reapplied and no voucher was issued, the continuing violation doctrine tolled the limitations period. The court rejected this argument. In its analysis, the court relied on Huckabay v. Moore, 142 F.3d 233, 238-39 (5th Cir. 1998) where that court "reasoned the continued violations doctrine was useful where individual acts or events may not be evident of discrimination except in cumulation over time." It also relied on Berry v. Bd. of Supervisors of L.S.U., 715 F.2d 971, 981 (5th cir. 1983) where that court laid out three reqirements for continuing violations: 1) similar subject matter; 2) frequent violations; and 3) a minor degree of permanence.

The third requirement was most persuasive here as the Ortega court held that the violation of the voucher in 2004 "was sufficiently permanent to create a cause of action and put a reasonable person on notice that he could act to protect his rights."

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