Apartment tenant sues landlord for discarding belongings

Kelly Holleran Sep. 19, 2011, 5:21pm

A Jefferson County woman claims she lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of valuable possessions when the owners of her apartment discarded her belongings.

Sheila K. Barnes filed a lawsuit Sept. 9 in Jefferson County District Court against Stone Way LP and Myan Management Group.

In her complaint, Barnes alleges she began living in an apartment at 1650 E. Lucas in April 2008. The apartment complex was owned and operated by Stone Way and Myan, according to the complaint.

During her stay at the apartment, Barnes and apartment management butted heads on a number of issues. Eventually, Stone Way filed a forcible detainer action against Barnes, alleging she violated the terms of her lease. A forcible detainer action is filed when an occupant refuses to leave the premises after the landlord provides appropriate notice.

After judgment was entered in Stone Way's favor, Barnes appealed to the county court, according to the complaint. However, Barnes, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was unable to appear at the July 22, 2009, trial because of her illness. The judge entered a default judgment against her because of her absence, the suit states.

Again, Barnes appealed the decision. The Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont reversed the judgment against her in January and sent the case back to trial, the complaint says.

By then, however, the defendants had entered Barnes's apartment while she was hospitalized and removed all of her contents.

"Her personal belongings were not only not properly removed or stored, but were simply dumped or trashed," the suit states. "Her very expensive Hover-Round wheelchair, for example, was simply tossed into a ditch behind the premises and left there, and was so badly damaged that the repairs needed cost almost as much as buying a new one."

In her complaint, Barnes alleges violations of the Texas Theft Liability Act against the defendants.

She seeks actual, mental anguish and exemplary damages within the jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County District Court, plus pre-judgment interest at the maximum rate allowed by law, post-judgment interest at the legal rate, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Ryan W. Gertz and Andrew P. Gertz of Gertz Adair Law Firm in Beaumont will be representing her.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. E190-893

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