The wife of prominent Chicago area bankruptcy lawyer Peter Francis Geraci has failed to persuade a jury her post-traumatic stress disorder, which she claims was triggered by a dog attack years ago, should allow her to use federal disability law to force the association that manages the Chicago condo building in which she lives to give her the right to ride alone in the building’s elevator, to avoid sharing the elevator with her neighbors’ dogs.
On April 21, a jury in Chicago federal court found in favor of the Union Square Condominium Association in the long-running legal dispute launched by Holly Geraci over whether her dog-induced PTSD should qualify as a disability requiring special accommodations under the Fair Housing Act.
“The Association is pleased with the result and cautiously optimistic that this matter can finally be put to rest,” said Union Square Association attorney Graham P. Miller, of the Chicago firm of Borkan & Scahill.
In 2014, Geraci had sued the association and another woman, dog walker Robin DiBuono, who Geraci had accused of assaulting her in one of the building’s elevators in 2013.
That suit had followed another action Peter and Holly Geraci had launched against the Union Square Association, alleging the association blocked 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 association.
The lawsuit over the rooftop deck was dismissed from Cook County court in 2015. And in 2016, a jury ruled in favor of DiBuono, ordering the Geracis to pay her $275,000.
The Geracis actions have led judges to criticize the couple for bringing lawsuits against the association that were “palpable nonsense.”
In the most recent case, filed in Chicago federal court after the other lawsuits, Holly Geraci 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 life normally or even sleep.
Specifically, she had requested a lock-out key, similar to that used by movers or emergency officials, allowing her to ride the elevator to the ground without stopping at other floors, and potentially having to share the elevator with large dogs.
The Geracis and the association began quarreling over the presence of dogs in the buildings’ elevators in 2004, when the couple first began asking the condo association to forbid large dogs from the elevators. She said her fear of large dogs in enclosed spaces dates back to her childhood, when she was purportedly attacked by a German shepherd, which had jumped into her father’s car.
The Geracis alleged dog owners in the building and their hired dog walkers reacted with hostility to her request, culminating in her altercation with DiBuono, and precipitating her lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in January rejected the association’s attempts to dismiss the case, saying a “reasonable jury” could find her PTSD claims constituted a disability requiring accommodation under the law.
At trial, however, the jury disagreed, finding the association held the upper hand in the dog fight.
Miller said he did not know if the Geracis would appeal, but noted they had already appealed the other two decisions against them.
“So for now, Union Square will have to wait and see,” Miller said.
Geraci was represented by by attorney Jeffrey Ogden Katz and other attorneys with The Patterson Law Firm, of Chicago.