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HIV-positive man sues assisted living facility after being kicked out
  By Rob Moritz / Arkansas News Bureau /
Friday, May 15, 2009 9:59 AM CDT
A national group filed a federal lawsuit against a North Little Rock assisted-living center Tuesday alleging discrimination against a 75-year-old man it said was evicted from the facility because he has the virus that causes AIDS.
Lambda Legal, a national group that advocates civil rights for gays and those with HIV, seeks an injunction barring the facility from denying people who are HIV positive and that the plaintiff be allowed to return. The lawsuit also seeks damages for violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act and the Arkansas Fair Housing Act.
"Federal and state laws exist to protect people from just this sort of unjust treatment,"said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project staff attorney for Lambda Legal, during a news conference Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Robert G. Franke, a retired biology professor and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Schoettes said Franke had been living in Michigan but decided to move back to Arkansas to be close to his daughter and grandchildren who live in Little Rock.
The day after moving into Parkstone Living Center in North Little Rock, also known as Fox Ridge at North Little Rock, officials at the facility informed Franke's daughter that she had to move her father out because of his having HIV, according to the lawsuit.
The 19-page lawsuit said Franke's daughter, Sara Franke Bowling, was told by the administrator of the facility that his "personal things could remain in the apartment for the time being, but that the 'body' needed to be out" of Fox Ridge almost immediately.
The administrator then told Bowling that her father would be turned "over to Adult Protective Services if he was not out of Fox Ridge by the end of the day," the suit said.
Schoettes said Bowling was told her father's "very presence there presented some undefined threat to the other residents."
"I was stunned that my dad was thrown out of his new home," Bowling said during the news conference.
Franke, who attended the news conference in a wheelchair but did stand at a podium to address reporters, said the facility was aware of his HIV status before he moved in and he was "shocked and dismayed" when told to move out.
"I couldn't believe it," Franke said. "I still don't believe it."
Murry Reagor, general manager for several Fox Ridge assisted-living centers in Arkansas, did not return a telephone call from a reporter seeking comment Tuesday.
A woman who answered the telephone at Medical Assets Holding Co. of Maumelle, which owns Fox Ridge, declined comment. Susan Coleman, chief counsel for Medical Assets Holding Co., did not return a call to her office by press time.
Franke said he has been HIV-positive for about 20 years. The lawsuit asks that Parkstone Living Center Inc. in North Little Rock, doing business as Fox Ridge at North Little Rock, be ordered to stop the practice of not allowing people with HIV to live at their facility and that Franke be allowed to return as a resident. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Bowling said her father stayed with her for a while but now lives in an assisted-living facility in Little Rock, which is aware of his HIV-positive status.
She said she did not know if her father would actually return to Parkstone Living Center, even if a judge issues an order.
"I think it would be really great if we were the ones who had the decision to make on where my father could live and not have Fox Ridge chosen for my father," Bowling said.
Franke, who retired from UALR in 1991, is an ordained Unitarian-Universalist minister.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele.
Little Rock attorney Gary L. Sullivan and Kenneth Upton of Dallas also were listed as Franke's attorneys in the lawsuit.
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