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Complaint

Complaint

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Dianna Shonville Jones, Plaintiff, vs. Paul Bertelson and Mission Inn Minnesota, Inc., Defendants.

Dianna Shonville Jones, Plaintiff, vs. Paul Bertelson and Mission Inn Minnesota, Inc., Defendants.

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Published by: Minnesota Public Radio on Apr 30, 2014
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05/06/2014

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 1
STATE OF MINNESOTA DISTRICT COURT FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COUNTY OF HENNEPIN CASE TYPE: OTHER CIVIL
Dianna Shonville Jones,
Court
 
File No: __________
Plaintiff, vs.
COMPLAINT
Paul Bertelson and Mission Inn Minnesota, Inc., Defendants.
INTRODUCTION
1.
 
This is an action for declaratory relief under the Social Security provisions of the United States Code and declaratory relief and damages under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act and civil conversion. Plaintiff Dianna Shonville Jones is a disabled person. Her monthly disability payments come to her as credits on a Direct Express debit card issued through disability benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration. The Defendants are a landlord and his management company. Defendants demanded and received from Ms. Jones her Direct Express debit card and PIN number as a condition of renting an apartment to her. The debit card was not returned to Ms. Jones when she requested and for the next three months Defendants withdrew nearly all available monies from the debit card account, well beyond what was owed in rent. When Ms. Jones cancelled the Direct Express debit card the landlord was using, Defendants continued to press her to turn her new card over to them. Defendants
also put in Ms. Jones’ name, without her permission and
weeks before she was to take
 
 2 occupancy, the electrical bill for the
apartment. Due to problems with the building’s
wiring, Ms. Jones was billed for electricity to the entire duplex property, resulting in excessive electricity bills that she could not afford to pay and then months without electricity. Lack of electricity, along with other inhabitable conditions at the property, forced Ms. Jones and her family out of their home and after months of periodic homelessness the tenancy ended in October 2013. These actions violate provisions of the Social Security disability benefit laws, the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act, and constitute civil conversion. Plaintiff therefore seeks a declaratory judgment establishing her rights. She also requests compensatory and
 punitive damages, as well as civil damages, and she seeks to recover statutory attorney’s
fees and costs.
APPLICABLE LAW
 2.
 
This Complaint is brought pursuant to the prohibition on assignment of benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 407 and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(d)(1); the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minn. Stat. § 363A.09; and the private cause of action for financial exploitation under the Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act, Minn. Stat. 626.557, subd. 20. 3.
 
The Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 407(a) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(d)(1), provides that future payments to persons qualifying for Social Security disability insurance payments or supplemental security income payments shall not be transferable or assignable. 4.
 
The M
innesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”)
, Minn. Stat. § 363A.09, protects individuals against discrimination in real property sales and rental agreements. Members of protected classes, including those who are disabled and receive public assistance, are  protected against rental practices by owners who require different terms and conditions of
 
 3
rental on the basis of a person’s status as belonging to a protected class.
5.
 
The
Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act (“VAA”)
, Minn. Stat. § 626.557, subd. 20,  provides a cause of action for a vulnerable adult who is the victim of financial exploitation as it is defined in Minn. Stat. § 626.5572, subd. 9. 6.
 
The VAA provides for recovery of compensatory damages and statutory damages equal to three times the amount of the compensatory damages or $10,000, whichever is greater. 7.
 
The Minnesota Legislature has given special attention to the pervasive issue of financial exploitation against vulnerable persons. Financial exploitation includes a broad array of  practices and actions designed to separate vulnerable persons from their financial resources. This private cause of action went into effect in 2009 to further the public
 policy declared by the VAA. The VAA is designed to “protect adults, who because of
 physical or mental disability . . . are particularly vulnerable to maltreatment . . . (and) to
assist in providing safe environments for vulnerable adults.” Minn. Stat. § 626.557, subd.
1.
FACTS The Parties and Property at Issue
 8.
 
Plaintiff
Dianna Shonville Jones (“Ms. Jones”)
is a 32 year old single adult. 9.
 
Ms. Jones has four children, Davonta Street (17), Briyana Hollins (15), Jabarie Hollins (8) and Destiny Ford (3). 10.
 
In 2013, Ms. Jones lived in an apartment with her children at 2818 Colfax Ave. N., #2, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55411, Hennepin County. 11.
 
Defendant Mission In
n Minnesota, Inc. (“Mission Inn Minnesota”)
, is a domestic  business corporation registered with the Secretary of State with a mailing address of 4630

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