Ruling blocks man's eviction

An apartment complex for the deaf that he sued must let him stay, a judge says. And he must behave.

Published October 14, 2006

After months of uncertainty, Patrick Ackerman finally knows where he will sleep tonight.

A Pinellas County judge refused to evict the blind and deaf man from the Bayou Courtyard Apartments, an independent living facility for the deaf in Largo.

In her 13-page ruling, Judge Kathleen Hessinger found the Deaf & Hearing Connection of Tampa Bay, the owners of Bayou Courtyard, should have accommodated Ackerman's request for a roommate.

"The need for a roommate is evident with defendant's disability of being deaf and blind," Hessinger wrote.

But she also cautioned Ackerman to continue paying his rent on time and to be on his best behavior.

"This court has great empathy for Mr. Ackerman's disabilities and the frustration it causes him," Hessinger wrote. "However, others are not required to suffer as a result of his frustration."

Ackerman was born deaf. He has lived at Bayou Courtyard since 2002 but never had any problems with the staff before losing his sight in 2004.

Ackerman said the staff is trying to throw him out of the complex to punish him for filing a federal lawsuit against Deaf & Hearing Connection earlier this year.

In the suit, Ackerman blames staff members for causing his blindness by failing to help him treat his high blood pressure.

But representatives from Deaf & Hearing Connection testified Ackerman violated rules and frightened staff members and tenants with his quick temper.

Ackerman's lease expired May 31. A federal judge refused to grant him an emergency order allowing him to continue living in Bayou Courtyard.

The dispute was transferred to County Court for eviction proceedings when the two sides failed to reach a settlement.

Sam Heller, Deaf & Hearing Connection's attorney, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Ken Dandar, Ackerman's attorney, said his client was relieved by his win. Ackerman, 42, lives off a $750 monthly Social Security check, which limits his choices.

Despite the judge's ruling, Ackerman is searching for a new place to live because of the increasing hostility he feels from the staff at Bayou Courtyard, Dandar said.

His federal suit is scheduled for trial in July 2007, but Dandar said he hopes the matter can be settled.

"My client has enough depression and enough problems," Dandar said. "He doesn't need to sit through a jury trial."

Carrie Weimar can be reached at 813 226-3416 or cweimar@sptimes.com.