The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of famed radio personality, George Willborn and his family for punitive and compensatory damages. Gary and his law partner Michael Lewis, Texas-based attorney, Charles H. Peckham and attorney Jason Williams of the Florida-based law firm of Gary, Williams, Finney, Lewis, Watson and Sperando, P.L. join in the cause. The team alleges real estate agent Jeffrey Lowe, his company, and his clients, Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia, refused to sell or otherwise made unavailable to the Willborns a home, based on their African American race.
"If this can happen to the Willborns, a prominent couple with the means to buy a home in an exclusive neighborhood, it can happen to anyone," said Charles H. Peckham at a press conference today on the steps of the Chicago Federal courthouse where they filed the lawsuit. "This kind of arbitrary discrimination has to stop now. It cannot be overstated the kind of courage it took for the Willborns to standup against this kind of racism and hold the people responsible accountable."
The Sabbias, a white married couple, owned the property and had been trying to sell the residence for two years when the Willborns became interested in the home and made an offer. The Willborns were identified as qualified buyers, negotiations ensued and the Willborns accepted the Sabbias' counteroffer. A sales contract was prepared but after many days, the Sabbias failed to respond or sign the contract. The Sabbias subsequently took the property off the market stating that Mrs. Sabbia suddenly had a change of heart and no longer wanted to leave the residence.
The U.S. Department of Justice intends to assist the Willborns in the lawsuit. A verified complaint was filed with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and it was determined by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) that reasonable cause existed to believe that a discriminatory housing practice had occurred in this case based on race. FHEO authorized HUD to proceed with the issuance of a charge of discrimination. George Willborn and his family have been subjected to the emotional and physical harm of discrimination and have suffered damages including economic loss, emotional distress, inconvenience and a lost housing opportunity.
"It is unfathomable that something like this could happen in today's society," commented attorney Willie Gary. "Since the days of Dr. King, our nation has come so far in the area of race relations. It just goes to show that there is much work to be done."
No stranger to high profile cases, Charles H. Peckham is currently working as the civil attorney for Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. Peckham of the Houston-based law firm of Peckham PLLC is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Peckham is known for his experience handling cases involving racism and is licensed to practice in Texas by the Supreme Court of Texas and is also admitted to practice before the United States District Courts in the Southern, Northern, Western and Eastern Districts of Texas and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Charles H. Peckham concentrates in many areas of litigation including employment, real estate, commercial and aviation law.