Iraq War veteran claims discrimination impeded housing search

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Dec 16, 2013

HOUSTON - An Iraq War veteran has brought a lawsuit against real estate agency Willshow Inc. on allegations it discriminated against him because of his disability.

Recent court documents filed Dec. 12 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas allege that the defendant mistreated Houston resident Derek B. Kolb as he tried to secure housing. He asserts the company's alleged actions worsened his health. 

Kolb, 29, served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Diwaynia, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006.

According to the suit, he developed post-traumatic stress disorder after assisting soldiers injured by an improvised explosive device and later Kolb himself was hit by an IED which caused a traumatic brain injury.

The plaintiff returned home only to have trouble transitioning to civilian life and ended up residing in a transitional housing facility for homeless veterans with PTSD, the suit states.

A doctor at the facility who saw him for PTSD recommended he adopt a service animal as soon as he can find a permanent place to stay.

After adopting a husky-mix dog named Balto, the plaintiff contacted Willshow to help him find an apartment.

Willshow, doing business as Texas Realty and Management, reportedly refused to assist Kolb because of Balto and another canine that had been assigned to him. Kolb claims this"frustrated and discouraged" him to the point he dropped Willshow and sought help elsewhere.

Kolb found a rental property, but it was more expensive than his first choice and further away from his family and medical services, the original petition says.

The suit adds the whole process took a toll on Kolb and claims his PTSD was exacerbated and his recovery regressed.

The plaintiff says he wants to use Willshow "again in the future if they change their practices as it pertains to individuals who have disabilities and require service animals."

A jury trial is requested.

Attorney Tyler T. VanHoutan of Winston & Strawn LLP in Houston is representing Kolb.

Case No. 4:13-CV-3635

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