A Portland couple filed a $1.9 million lawsuit accusing their landlords of unlawful eviction, negligence and retaliation for ousting them from their rented room in January. The couple began living in a vehicle where, two weeks after the eviction, the complaint alleges, Sara Kuust experienced a miscarriage.
According to the complaint, filed June 7 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Kuust and her partner Jake Blackburn began renting a room for about $80 a day at the Evergreen Inn and Suites, located near the intersection of Northeast Sandy Boulevard and 82nd Avenue, in October of 2020.
The complaint names Manmohan and Jalpaben Patel as the defendants, describing them as the “owner, lessor or sublessor” of the rented room and, effectively, the landlord of Kuust and Blackburn. It also names OM JSNRN Hospitality Group as a third defendant.
A lawyer representing all three defendants declined to provide a comment.
In the winter, the complaint alleges, the couple began experiencing financial hardships and was unable to pay rent. According to the complaint, they provided the landlord with a “Declaration of Financial Hardship for Eviction Protection” form, which is supposed to protect Oregonians from residential evictions “without tenant cause” through June 30, 2021.
The lawsuit alleges that motel management “attempted to force their way into plaintiff’s dwelling unit” on “at least five occasions” beginning Jan. 14; locked them out of their unit on Jan. 16; and, that same day, “instructed the police to remove plaintiffs from the premises.”
The couple then stayed for three nights at the Red Lion Inn at a rate of $75 a day, and two nights at a Motel 6 for $72 a night, the complaint says.
“Plaintiffs have spent the rest of their nights since January 16, 2021 sleeping in their car,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiffs have been forced to eat more meals out, since they don’t have a kitchen in their car. Plaintiffs also have been forced at times to turn on the engine of the car to keep warm when it is cold outside.”
Two weeks after the eviction, their lawyer says, Kuust had a miscarriage.
“As a result of defendants’ wrongful eviction, plaintiffs became homeless. After being wrongfully evicted, Ms. Kuust experienced a miscarriage while living in her car,” the lawsuit says. “Because of defendants’ unlawful actions, plaintiffs were made to be homeless and have been forced to sleep in a car.”
The lawsuit says the landlords violated the state’s eviction moratorium by ousting Kuust and Blackburn during the pandemic after they had submitted the financial hardship form. It further alleges that the eviction resulted in distress and injury.
“As a result of Defendants’ actions, Ms. Kuust was injured and has experienced depression, anxiety, fear (including when being forced to leave her dwelling by the police), hopelessness, frustration, loss of appetite, and headaches. Ms. Kuust experienced a miscarriage while living in her car,” the lawsuit alleges. “As a result of defendants’ negligence, Mr. Blackburn has suffered physical injury and emotional distress, anxiety, stress and frustration and interference with life activities.”
Kuust and Blackburn are seeking compensation “not to exceed $950,000″ each.