Disability Discrimination Complaint Against Maple Ridge Hyundai Dismissed

Cardiff, UK: June 02, 2020: Hyundai Car Dealership. The Hyundai Motor Company, commonly known as Hyundai Motors, is a South Korean multinational automotive manufacturer. Illustrative Editorial

In reasons released today regarding the case of Verozinis v Kot Auto Group dba Maple Ridge Hyundai, 2020 BCHRT 156, Tribunal Member Norman Trerise dismissed a human rights complaint against the Hyundai car dealership located in Maple Ridge, BC.

The Complainant, Spyros Verozinis, alleged that when he attended the Maple Ridge Honda Dealership with his wife to buy a vehicle, the Finance Manager engaged in high pressure communications regarding the details of the vehicle and he was unable to fully understand what was occurring due to his disability – congenital deafness. He alleged that he ended up purchasing a vehicle he would not have purchased if his disability were not taken advantage of and he fully understood the terms of the sale. As such, he complained he was discriminated against on the grounds of mental and physical disability in the area of service contrary to the BC Human Rights Code.

Following a 2-day hearing, the Tribunal found that the Complainant’s mental and physical disabilities were not a factor in him being sold the vehicle. Mr. Verozinis was successful in establishing that he had a physical or mental disability. However, he failed to established that he experienced adverse treatment related to his disability and the car sale. The Tribunal held that he was too inconsistent on this issue to be reliable and instead preferred the evidence of the car dealership’s witness. Regarding the inconsistency, the Tribunal found the following at paras 45 and 46:

[45] Mr. Verozinis has testified both that he was adversely impacted because the vehicle was purchased by his wife rather than by him and that he did not receive the vehicle he wanted being a hybrid or electric vehicle but instead received a gas‐powered vehicle. However, Mr. Verozinis has testified to his awareness that a vehicle in the category that he desired was not within the financing capability of his wife. In other words, Mr. Verozinis had to know and I find that he did know that the vehicle his wife was purchasing at the time of the transaction with the Respondent was a gas‐powered vehicle. Accordingly, I find that Mr. Verozinis was not adversely impacted by the purchase of a gas‐powered vehicle as opposed to a hybrid or electric‐powered vehicle.

[46] More contentious is Mr. Verozinis’ inconsistency around understanding that the vehicle was purchased by his wife. It is clear on the evidence that Mr. Verozinis understood that his wife was financing the purchase of the vehicle, either because Mr. Verozinis believed that his bankruptcy prevented him from purchasing the vehicle at all or because he understood that if the vehicle was purchased in his name it would be at a higher interest rate than if his wife purchased the vehicle. In either event, Mr. Verozinis clearly understood that the financing of the vehicle was dependent upon his wife’s income rather than his own.

Further, the Respondent was successful in demonstrating that it took all reasonable and practical steps to avoid an adverse impact on the Complainant because their employees offered to use a microphone, spoke loudly and clearly, and sat so he could see their faces at all times.

The Tribunal also held at para 55 that “generally, a person seeking accommodation must give the service provider the facts needed to accommodate, facilitate the implementation of reasonable accommodation proposals, and accept reasonable accommodation.”

This case demonstrates that those alleging discrimination should ensure they are clear and consistent when giving evidence at a hearing. It also demonstrates that people with disabilities who need accommodation must assist service providers in accommodating them before they can allege that the service provider has failed to do so. Further, it demonstrates that service providers should make all reasonable and practical efforts to accommodate those with disabilities.

Tribunal Allows Timely Complaint About Rejection of Assistance Dog

The Complainant in Vanderhoek by Favell v. Strata Plan No. KAS742, Lavelle Vanderhoek, reports having depression and hearing loss. When her neighbour passed away and left her their dog, the Respondent Strata began raising issues. Vanderhoek filed a human rights complaint against the Strata for allegedly discriminating against her in services based on her mental and physical disability. The Human Rights Tribunal decided that the complaint was filed on time.

The BC Human Rights Code section 22 (1) requires human rights complaints to be filed within one year of the alleged contravention. According to section 22(2), if the complainant is alleging a continuing contravention, the complaint “must be filed within one year of the last alleged instance of the contravention.”

The Strata raised issues with the dog in mid-2017. According to Vanderhoeck, someone from the Strata said in October, 2017, that she would be sued if she did not get rid of the dog. Vanderhoek argued her case for keeping the dog before the Strata in a hearing during December, 2017. Then, in January, 2018, she was told she could keep the dog if she produced a “Guide Dog and Service Dog Certification” by no later than April 2, 2018. In September, 2018, the Respondents sent Vanderhoek a letter stating that the Strata voted against a bylaw change that would allow owners to have pets. Vanderhoek filed her complaint on March 18, 2019.

Tribunal Member Steven Adamson decided that the complaint was filed on time. This was based on the September, 2018 letter from the Strata constituting a new decision. The Strata also acknowledged its previous deadline of April 2, 2018 in the letter.

The Tribunal considered whether the events in 2017 to 2018 were part of a “continuing contravention” and ruled that they were.