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Grassbaugh Veterans Project wins first major case for local veterans

July 7, 2014 | Students

The Captain Jonathan D. Grassbaugh Veterans Project has won its first major case for two local veterans.

Under the guidance of a supervising attorney, Moritz students working with the Grassbaugh Veterans Project were able to get a security deposit returned to two Ohio State students and Marine Corps veterans after they were unsuccessful in getting it back from their former landlord on their own.

The Grassbaugh Veterans Project was started in 2013 after Jenna Grassbaugh ‘14 donated funds to The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in honor of her late husband to start a program to help veterans with their legal needs. The project is currently focused on helping service members in the central Ohio area with their housing and consumer-related issues.  

In the past several months, the Grassbaugh Veterans Project has been contacted by more than 25 veterans in need of legal services and students are currently working on six outstanding cases.

In early November, the program received a message from two student veterans asking for advice on issues they were having with their former rental company. They said the property manager had held onto their deposit, claiming it was going to be applied to several alleged utility bills.

During a meeting with Moritz students Michalea Delaveris ‘14 and rising 3L Suzanne Van Horn, the veterans described in detail how they had struggled through a tough campus-area lease and just wanted to put the whole situation behind them – but first, they needed answers regarding the status of their security deposit.

Delaveris and Van Horn quickly went to work researching Ohio laws on tenant rights when it comes to the remission of a security deposit. They then employed the help of Student Legal Services to issue demand letters to both the property manager and property owner requesting payment for their clients.

After several weeks went by without any word from either party, the student veterans decided to move forward with litigation.    

On April 15, they had their day in court. They were awarded a settlement for the full amount of their security deposit from the property owner and a default judgment for allowable statutory damages – set in place by the Ohio legislature to curb this type of tenant exploitation – against the property manager.

Although the security deposit was relatively small, the judgment was a victory for the two Marine Corps veterans who said they felt their former landlord had tried to take advantage of them. Through the free legal assistance provided by the Grassbaugh Veterans Project the service members were able to get back the money they were rightfully owed.

The student veterans said they plan to use the default judgment to file a complaint with the Ohio Real Estate Commission to hopefully stop this from happening to others in the future. 

“It was with a new kind of joy that we shook hands on our way out of the courthouse,” Delaveris said of the experience. “Six months of working, waiting, learning, researching and drafting paid off in the most amazing way. Working with the Grassbaugh Veterans Project has been an affirmation of my decision to pursue a career in the law and the highlight of my legal education.”

For more information or to apply for legal aide through the Grassbaugh Veterans Project visit http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/grassbaugh/ or contact the project by email at grassbaughveteransproject@osu.edu or by phone at 614-292-0290.