A Chicago federal judge has cleared the way for Holly Geraci, the
wife of prominent Chicago bankruptcy lawyer Peter Francis Geraci, to proceed
with her lawsuit against the association that manages the condo building in
which she lives, saying Geraci has presented a strong enough case so far to be
allowed to press ahead on her claims the condo association unleashed a plot to
terrorize her by forcing her to potentially share the condo building’s
elevators with dogs, despite her contentions the dogs triggered her diagnosed
post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from a dog attack years earlier.
On Jan. 26, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly rejected the
request from the Union Square Condominium Association for summary judgment in
the association’s favor to end the litigation the Geracis launched against it
nearly two years ago.
The case is one of the last still making its way through the
courts in a series of litigation the Geracis have brought against their
neighbors in the Union Square Association in recent years.
In 2014, the Geracis, who live on the top floor of the condo
building in the 300 block of West Hubbard Street, in the shadow of Merchandise
Mart, sued the association for allegedly blocking them from repairing their
rooftop deck at the top of the building, and then refused the Geracis request
to repay them for the damage, allegedly caused by a contractor hired by the
Also, in 2014, Holly Geraci sued the association and another
woman, Robin DiBuono, who Geraci accused of assaulting her in one of the
building’s elevators in 2013.
In 2015, Cook County courts dismissed the Geracis’ suits involving
the rooftop deck. And in 2016, a jury ruled in favor of DiBuono, and ordered
the Geracis to pay her $275,000. The Geracis have appealed the jury verdict.
The Geracis actions have led judges
to criticize the couple for bringing lawsuits that were "palpable
nonsense" against the condo association.
In this case, filed after the others,
the Geracis accused the association of turning a deaf ear to her request for an
accommodation for her PTSD disability, which she said often leaves her unable
to live her life normally or even sleep.
The dispute over dogs in the
elevators at the building date back to 2004, when the Geracis, citing Holly’s
fear of large dogs, began asking the condo association to clarify and enforce
rules regarding the presence of dogs in elevators. Holly Geraci said her fear
of large dogs in enclosed spaces dates back to her childhood when she was
purportedly attacked by a German shepherd, who had jumped into her father’s car,
and bit her 40 times.
The Geracis said dog owners in the
building and their hired dog walkers instead responded with hostility to her
request, leading to her altercation with DiBuono in the elevator in 2013.
To remedy the problem, Geraci said
she repeatedly asked the association for an elevator key, which would lock out
the elevator, and allow her to ride alone non-stop to the ground floor. Geraci
said the association has repeatedly refused her request, and has instead
retaliated against her by turning the rest of the building’s residents against
her. She said these actions violated the federal Fair Housing Act, which
requires accommodation of those with disabilities.
In response to her suit, the condo
association asked Judge Kennelly to rule in their favor, arguing the Geracis
should be precluded from suing over this matter, given the other litigation the
couple has brought. They also argued they had not discriminated against her or
retaliated against her.
Kennelly, however, said the
evidence presented thus far in the case does not support those contentions.
Despite the prior legal actions and
decisions against them, Kennelly said Holly Geraci’s current lawsuit was
disconnected sufficiently from those other legal actions to allow this one to
proceed. He noted this case, while tangentially tied to those other cases,
deals with the association’s actions after those other lawsuits were filed, and
how the association may have reacted to them.
“Geraci's FHA claims and state law claims assert different
theories of relief, arise from different events, and cover different periods of
time,” the judge wrote.
Further, the judge said the
evidence to this point leads him to believe a “reasonable jury” could find
Geraci has a legally recognized disability, and the association “made, at best,
a perfunctory effort to deal with Geraci’s (accommodation) request and fell
short of what the FHA requires.”
And, the judge said, a jury could
also reasonably find the association did retaliate against Geraci by stirring
up her neighbors against her, by distributing “litigation updates” to residents
and holding a “forum” to discuss the Geracis’ lawsuits.
“At the forum, residents blamed Geraci for ‘the harm that
[she caused] for the building and all the residents in this building,’” the
judge wrote. “The attendees allegedly applauded in approval.
“A reasonable jury could infer from this evidence that Union
Square acted as it did to turn Geraci's fellow residents against her and that
Geraci is represented in the action by attorney Jeffrey Ogden
Katz and other attorneys with The Patterson Law Firm, of Chicago.
Union Square is defended by the firm of Borkan &
Scahill, of Chicago.