NLR residents sue apartment owner for $5 billion

NORTH LITTLE ROCK -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday seeking over $5 billion in damages from the Ohio company that owns Shorter College Garden Apartments in North Little Rock, where an explosion on Oct. 4 resulted in the death of three tenants, according to the filing in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Six residents of Shorter College Garden Apartments -- Jordan Warren, Kiara Booker, Bernamesha Young, Miyana Bryant, Kelly O'Donald, Shanta Burnett -- filed the lawsuit individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated.

Defendants are Millennia Housing Management Ltd., Millennia Commercial Group Ltd., Millennia Housing Development Ltd., Millennia Housing Capital Ltd. (collectively referred to in the lawsuit as the Millennia defendants or Millennia), SC Apartments AR LLC (doing business as Shorter College Gardens Apartments), and John Does 1-10.

Millennia failed to provide reasonably safe premises and exercise reasonable care to repair dangerous defective conditions when notified about those conditions, according to the lawsuit.

Millennia also failed to disclose known defects to tenants and refused "to eradicate uninhabitable conditions throughout the term of tenant leases," according to the court filing.

"Shorter College Garden Apartments and the Millennia Defendants have established a pattern of knowingly renting apartment units in unsafe, uninhabitable conditions and purposefully neglecting the responsibility to eradicate known dangerous conditions within a time reasonable," according to the lawsuit.

"As a result of Defendants' deceptive, neglectful conduct, Plaintiffs and other similar tenants suffered (and continue to suffer) monetary, mental, and physical injuries," according to the court filing.

After the explosion last October, the apartment complex management sent a letter to tenants stating that an inspection of the underground gas line infrastructure had taken place, and advising tenants of next steps and temporary housing options and other accommodations, according to the lawsuit.

"Defendants knowingly told the tenants that the place was safe when they knew the apartment still had gas leaks because the inspection did not occur. The letter was simply an untruth," according to the court filing.

Plaintiffs are suing for breach of contract and the duty of good faith and fair dealing, premises liability, gross negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of the warranty of habitability, and unjust enrichment, among other things, according to the lawsuit.

Millennia owns and operates more than 280 apartment developments in 26 states, many of which participate in rental assistance programs such as those offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to the lawsuit.

Millennia's apartment communities house more than 86,000 people and employ more than 1,100, according to the court filing.

Plaintiffs are asking for a judgment of damages totalling a minimum of $860 million, which represents $10,000 for each of the 86,000 people that Millennia asserts reside at its properties, according to the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs are also seeking $4.3 billion in punitive damages, or $50,000 per Millennia resident.

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