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About Us & Our Mission

Attorneys and Social Worker Save Client from Eviction

As a result of a team effort consisting of attorneys Jason Wolford and Joel Liberson, along with social worker Abby Westbrook of the Homeless Advocacy Project and Dr. John Moranville, Diana Taylor was able to save her thirty-six year residential tenancy in San Francisco.  Ms. Taylor was referred to the law firm of Liberson & Wolford through the Eviction Defense Collaborative after her landlord had initiated eviction proceedings because she had accumulated too many personal possessions in her apartment – commonly referred to as “hoarding and cluttering.” 

During the initial client meeting in February 2006, Ms. Taylor presented herself as someone who might be suffering from a mental disability.  Unsure as to whether there was any connection between this potential disability and the condition of Ms. Taylor’s apartment, counsel contacted Abby Westbrook for a consultation.  Based upon her prior experience with disabled tenants, Abby believed that Ms. Taylor might be suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”), which might have resulted in the “cluttered”  condition inside her apartment. 

The next step in an effort to save Ms. Taylor’s tenancy -- finding a doctor or psychologist who was willing to consult with Ms. Taylor and determine whether or not she suffered from OCD – proved to be extremely difficult.  Due to Ms. Taylor’s financial status, she was unable to pay for the services of a qualified mental health professional.   Counsel raised this issue with the Superior Court and the landlord, and explained that they were contacting numerous medical clinics in order to schedule an appointment for the requisite examination.  The Court granted Ms. Taylor’s request for a brief extension because counsel, after placing dozens of phone calls, was eventually able to arrange for an appointment at one of the City’s low cost medical clinics.  Despite the fact that Ms. Taylor was scheduled to consult with a physician at the clinic, when she arrived with her attorney, Ms. Taylor was instead told that the “examination” would be conducted by a physician’s assistant and not a medical doctor.  Unfortunately, Ms. Taylor was now facing the prospect of an impending trial date without the requisite mental health evaluation.

Ms. Taylor was eventually able to schedule an appointment with Dr. John Moranville, a psychiatrist who is affiliated with the Native American Health Center.    After the initial consultation in May 2006, Dr. Moranville informed counsel that Ms. Taylor likely suffered from OCD, but that he needed to schedule a follow-up visit to confirm the diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan.  However, despite the fact that Ms. Taylor was a long-term patient at the Native American Health Center, she was unable to obtain another appointment until a month later.  In the meantime, Ms. Taylor’s attorneys communicated this preliminary diagnosis to the landlord’s attorneys in an attempt to preserve Ms. Taylor’s tenancy.   
               
At the second session, Dr. Moranville confirmed his earlier diagnosis and further explained that Ms. Taylor’s medical condition resulted in her inability to remove the “clutter” inside her apartment.  The doctor was in the process of formulating a detailed “accommodation” plan to remedy the situation.  Because of the impending trial date of July 10, 2006, Ms. Taylor was running out of time.  On the morning of July 10th, Ms. Taylor’s attorney, the landlord’s attorney, and the Court discussed the disability issues triggered in this case.  Even though the landlord was notified of the doctor’s diagnosis and impending treatment plan, the landlord refused to stipulate to any further continuances for the purpose of finalizing an “accommodation” plan.  Therefore, Ms. Taylor was required to proceed to a jury trial in order to save her tenancy. 

During the week-long trial conducted by Jason Wolford, Ms. Taylor presented evidence that she was disabled, and that the disability resulted in the condition inside her apartment.  She also presented evidence that the landlord had failed to provide the legally mandated “reasonable accommodation” prior to initiating the eviction lawsuit.  In a unanimous verdict, the jury agreed with Ms. Taylor, and judgment was entered in her favor.   The efforts of Ms. Taylor’s team preserved her tenancy and kept her from becoming added to the ranks of the homeless in our community.  

Learn about the Homeless Advocacy Project.