Service Dog Lawsuit Settled by Oregon University

February 18, 2014

Portland State University in Oregon will pay $161,500 to settle a lawsuit claiming it discriminated against disabled students who have service animals.

Deaf student Cindy Leland and the Fair Housing Council of Oregon filed the $1 million lawsuit in 2012, alleging the university wouldn’t allow Leland and her dog to live in an on-campus apartment that had carpeting. The suit also said she couldn’t complete prerequisites for a master’s degree program because a teaching assistant told her the dog wasn’t allowed in a science lab.

Portland State admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement signed Thursday by federal judge Michael Simon. Leland and the housing council will split $142,500 in an unspecified way, and the rest of money will go into an interest-bearing account to compensate current and former students who file claims that they were treated differently because of their disabilities.

LawsuitAs part of the settlement, the university agreed to revise its policies regarding assistance animals and provide more training for some employees. Leland’s attorney, Dennis Steinman, said the remedies approved by the judge are far-reaching and a model for all universities to follow.

“This is a great outcome not only for Cindy Leland, but for all disabled students who may have been discriminated against,” Steinman said.

The U.S. Department of Justice conducted a separate investigation and is finalizing a settlement with the university. Amanda Marshall, the U.S. attorney for Oregon, said the school’s policy changes are “a great step forward.”

Though it denied Leland’s allegations, Portland State acknowledged in a statement that Leland had a difficult experience and the university wishes her success as she continues her studies. The university said it is committed to the success of all students and works hard to accommodate those with disabilities.

Steinman said his client plans to pursue an occupational therapy degree in the United Kingdom and has been assured that her service dog is welcome.

About Steven Dubois

Associated Press
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Latest Comments

  • February 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm
    NG says:
    You may want to read this for a lighthearted and informative look on service animals http://www.allbusiness.com/legal/human-rights-civil-liberties-law-americans-with/15549862-... read more
  • February 18, 2014 at 2:47 pm
    Huh! says:
    Glad to know the lawsuit has been settled in favor of the claimant. Those who are not in need of a service animal may never fully comprehend the value of the service that is ... read more
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