Canal Side Care Manor v. Pa. Human Relations Comm’n, 2011 WL 4986670 (Pa. Commw. Ct., Oct. 20, 2011)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

In this opinion, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a ruling by the state's Human Relations Commission (Commission) that the plaintiff had been unlawfully discriminated against after she was expelled from housing in a personal care residential facility. The facility, Canal Side, admitted the plaintiff without knowing she was HIV-positive. After finding out her HIV status the day she was admitted, Canal Side ordered her removal within 24 hours, even though the owner of the facility was repeatedly informed that there was no risk of transmission if universal precautions were followed.

The court found the center liable to the plaintiff for violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) for denying housing accommodations to the plaintiff based on her HIV-positive status, considered a qualifying disability under PHRA. The plaintiff was also awarded damages based on the humiliation and embarrassment she suffered, and the Commission's order that Canal Side "establish policies that specifically state that [they] will admit otherwise qualified persons with HIV/AIDS" was affirmed. The court rejected the center's argument that the plaintiff was removed based on severe incontinence and pointed out that this argument was already found to have no merit by the Commission and should not have been re-raised. In fact, the opinion notes several mistakes in Canal Side's appeal – including omitting relevant facts from their brief, asserting facts unsupported by the record, and failing to address the plaintiff's HIV status – that may have contributed to the failure of their appeal.

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