A Madison apartment tenant who was evicted and had thousands of dollars worth of property destroyed after she filed a complaint with city building inspectors should be awarded at least $14,500, a state Court of Appeals judge decided Thursday.
The opinion by 4th District Appeals Judge Brian Blanchard upheld an earlier ruling by Dane County Circuit Judge John Albert, who had found in favor of tenant Devin Thomas.
Albert found that Thomas had been illegally evicted and awarded her double damages of $14,500 for loss of property and failure to return a security deposit against Lily Management LLC of Madison.
The lawsuit was originated by Lily when it sought to evict Thomas in 2013 for alleged failure to pay rent. Thomas’ attorney, who uses the single name of Mitch, said his client had withheld some rent pending a decision on rent abatement by the city of Madison because of the poor condition of the apartment.
Thomas countersued, saying she was improperly ousted from her apartment at 2317 Fish Hatchery Road when Lily changed the locks and got rid of more than $4,500 worth of her property.
Mitch said the case was unusual in that evictions rarely get to the Court of Appeals. Cost is a big barrier to fighting such actions, said Mitch, who runs the UW-Madison Law School’s Neighborhood Law Clinic.
In addition to the $14,500 judgment, Blanchard directed Albert to award additional attorney’s fees to the law clinic. However, Mitch said he has had no luck collecting fees from Lily Management in the past.