9 Investigates

Federal discrimination lawsuit filed against Orlando Housing Authority following man's death

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Members of a Sanford family said their father, who was found dead, was legally blind, had seizures and had a brain disorder. A doctor said Samuel Rosario required a larger apartment to accommodate a live-in aide. But an investigation found the Orlando Housing Authority had denied the request.

Channel 9 investigative reporter Daralene Jones discovered a federal discrimination lawsuit could now cost taxpayers and raises questions about a history of similar allegations against the public agency.

Rosario was 54 years old when he was found dead May 29, 2014 in of a unit at a Sanford apartment complex. According to the 18-page federal lawsuit that 9 Investigates reviewed, Rosario woke up one day with a bloody nose. A blood trail indicates Rosario went from his bedroom to the bathroom and eventually the kitchen, where he experienced a seizure or fainted. Rosario hit his head, which was ultimately determined as his cause of death, according to the report. He was home alone in his third-floor, one-bedroom apartment.

The Orlando Housing Authority had relocated Rosario to a privately owned, taxpayer-subsidized community when it shut down Redding Gardens in 2011 because of the dilapidated conditions.

The day of the move, Rosario was found lost and bleeding close to a major highway. A doctor then determined Rosario was legally blind and informed his family of his: "inability to live independently or on the third floor" of the private complex where the Orlando Housing Authority relocated him.

The family notified the Orlando Housing Authority, requested a second bedroom for a live-in aide and something on the first floor, but according to the lawsuit, no action was taken.

According to the federal lawsuit and a state investigation, the family provided ample documentation of Rosario's disability and turned in sufficient paperwork to the Orlando Housing Authority. The family said they waited to file a federal lawsuit until the state found there discriminatory practices at the housing authority.

The state investigation determined the Orlando Housing Authority “second-guessed or ignored reliable information from Rosario's doctor, delayed the accommodation process ... subverted Rosario's medical needs for many months, (even though) ... he needed care 24 hours, around the clock."

The Florida Commission on Human Relations determined, "There is reasonable cause to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred."

The federal lawsuits lists more than a dozen similar complaints since 2009.

9 Investigates also learned the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development also has an active investigation.

The Orlando Housing Authority was closed Monday because of the holiday. 9 Investigates reached out to the director via email, along with two attorneys listed in this lawsuit, but hasn't heard back. The parties have reached a settlement in the case, but it must be approved by the Orlando Housing Authority board.