A discrimination suit has been filed on behalf of an 80-year-old woman with dementia who allegedly has been blocked along with her two caregivers from returning to her Wilshire Boulevard condominium out of homeowners association concerns that all three previously tested positive for the coronavirus.
Plaintiff Lynn Thompson's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as defendants the Diplomat Condominium Association Inc. and homeowner association President Berna Lynn Warner. The suit filed Friday seeks unspecified damages as well as an injunction allowing her and her caregivers to return to her high-rise unit.
"If all residents of multi-family dwellings that are diagnosed with COVID-19 can be banned from going home, where are they to go?" the suit asks. "The displacement of all these people would lead to a public health nightmare."
Warner did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Local news from across Southern California
According to the suit, Thompson suffers from dementia and from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that confines her to a wheelchair and requires around-the-clock assistance from her caregivers, Kim Leong and Chandar Pandeya. Thompson needs the pair's assistance to bathe, eat and go to the restroom, the suit states.
At least one of the caregivers has been with Thompson nearly every day for the last nine years, so both have a deep understanding of her needs, according to the complaint.
Thompson and the caregivers were diagnosed with the coronavirus in late July, the suit states. Since the caregivers were mainly symptom-free and wanted to care for Thompson, doctors recommended that the trio quarantine together so that the plaintiff could continue to receive the care she needed, the suit states.
After Thompson was discharged from the hospital on July 30, the caregivers and Thompson went to the plaintiff's home at the Diplomat to quarantine, the suit states. The caregivers made few trips out of the unit, wore masks in common spaces, washed their hands before and after coming into any common spaces and never came into close contact with anyone other than each other, according to the suit.
Leong's only trip out of the unit was to get Thompson's oxygen in the middle of one night, the suit states.
Thompson became sick with an unrelated illness on Aug. 1 and was taken to a hospital by paramedics, who were told by the caregivers that they and the plaintiff had the coronavirus, the suit states. The suit alleges that one of the paramedics gave that information to a Diplomat valet.
"The manager of the Diplomat ... then called the caregivers and told them they needed to leave the building immediately," the suit states.
In a panic, the caregivers left many of their possessions in Thompson's unit, including Leong's purse with her medical insurance cards, keys and driver's license, the suit states.
On Aug. 3, Warner sent a letter to Thompson's hospital room stating that Leong "and any related family members will not be permitted to enter the Diplomat under any circumstances for any purpose'' because the caregivers allegedly acted with "reckless disregard for the health and safety of the owners and the staff of the Diplomat."
Warner provided only a vague explanation of the caregivers' alleged "reckless disregard," the suit states. Warner allegedly also told the caregivers via text messages that they had been permanently banned from the Diplomat.
Thompson's condition later began to deteriorate at the hospital, partly due to her refusal to eat, and her doctors urged that she return home with her caregivers, the suit states.
While Thompson initially believed that the ban only applied to the caregivers and that she was permitted to go home, the HOA is now refusing her wish to do so unless she provides two negative coronavirus tests, the suit states.
But Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order requires all California residents to stay home, the suit states. Even if the homeowners association had the right to stop Thompson from quarantining in her own unit, requiring a negative COVID-19 test was unreasonable because the CDC has found that recovered patients may have low levels of the virus up to three months after their diagnoses, the suit states.
Warner subsequently said Thompson and her caregivers could come back to the Diplomat, but only if they agree to provide COVID-free test results taken within 48 hours of entering the building and that they be quarantined in Thompson's unit for 14 days, the suit states.
Warner said that if the caregivers leave, they would not be able to return to the Diplomat, according to the suit, which further states the HOA and Warner "continue to refuse to modify their demands."
However the caregivers have already quarantined and have been cleared by their doctors to return to work, the suit states. In addition, Thompson's request for a reasonable accommodation to return home has resulted in the HOA retaliating with defamatory attacks on the caregivers' characters, the suit states.