Evicted family sues mobile home park for racial discrimination

LAKELAND, Tenn. -- A Lakeland mobile home park is coming under fire, accused of discriminating against Hispanic families.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, the attorney for one family alleges the owner of the Canada Trace Mobile Home Community evicted them because of their race, and said they're not the only ones.

But the property owner's lawyer claimed there was a long history of issues.

Memphis attorney Aaron Neglia represents the family, who's lived at the mobile home park since 2011.

But he said a month ago – out of nowhere – they were served an eviction notice.

"They're accusing them of being members of the cartel and drug-dealers selling kilos of marijuana outside of their trailer," Neglia said. "These individuals have never been in trouble, they've never been arrested, they've never been investigated by the police."

He said the property owner has no proof to back up those allegations and is kicking the family out because of their race – a move the lawsuit claims is in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

"They have never done anything wrong except be Hispanic," Neglia said.

The attorney for property owner Judy Tate told WREG a different story.

"Mr. Neglia wishes to make this about race," said Joe Barton. "This is strictly about contracts."

Barton said not only did the family's contract to rent the property expire, their children are "terrorizing the community," and they broke the lease by owning a dangerous Pit Bull, which the family says they got rid of months ago as soon as they were told to.

"She had, according to my client, a vicious dog, which she had been asked repeatedly to remove, which was a violation of the lease," Barton said.

Barton also alluded to a drug-dealing problem but didn't elaborate on the family's alleged involvement in any illegal activity.

"Well, there are problems in the park relating to drugs," he said, "And they try to maintain a safe park for the other residents."

This is the third Hispanic family living there who Neglia said he's represented – all with similar complaints.

And another attorney, Nick Tominello, told WREG Friday that he's filing a complaint next week on behalf of four more families who also claim they're being unfairly evicted.

Tate's attorney maintains the family is being evicted for violating their lease and that it has nothing to do with race.

A bench trial is scheduled for Oct. 23 in civil court.