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Portland landlord files $100,000 lawsuit against community volunteer over coronavirus worries

The lawsuit claims a woman is putting her 77-year-old landlord's health at risk by going out into the community and volunteering to help neighbors and the homeless.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Jeane Gaiennie is a good Samaritan. She helps the homeless at Union Gospel Mission, delivers meals to shut-ins with Meals on Wheels and volunteers at the Oregon Food Bank.

“I am stepping up even more now because the need is even greater,” said Gaiennie.

The Oregonian newspaper featured Gaiennie in a March 22 editorial under the heading, “The coronavirus pandemic offers glimpses of Oregonians at their best.”

Despite the community recognition, not everyone is pleased with Gaiennie’s volunteer work.

Her landlord, Carole Lee, 77, filed a civil lawsuit against the Portland woman and wants her evicted over coronavirus concerns. Lee claimed Gaiennie is putting her health at risk by going out into the community and volunteering to help neighbors and the homeless.

The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County, seeks $100,000 in damages claiming Lee has experienced mental suffering, emotional distress and diminished use and enjoyment of her home.

Lee declined to comment when reached by phone. Her lawyer, Peter Tinsley of Murphy Law Group, did not respond to an email or phone call.

“I’m trying to do good things and I do not aspire to hurt anybody,” explained Gaiennie. “The last thing I would do is to try to hurt my landlord.”

Gaiennie, 57, said she takes precautions while volunteering, including wearing protective equipment, and practices social distancing.


Credit: Jeane Gaiennie

Gaiennie has been renting a room in the Northeast Portland home since last May. She pays $800 a month.

Lee is listed on property records as the owner of the 3,287 square foot home in Portland’s Irvington neighborhood. Gaiennie said six people, including Lee are currently living in the home.

Gaiennie admits her relationship with the landlord, Lee, has been tumultuous. Their communication is mostly limited to email or text.

Gaiennie explained she can’t afford an attorney to defend against the lawsuit and fears she will be kicked out.

“I would be homeless,” explained Gaiennie. “I would be the person on the street that I’m serving.”

RELATED: Multnomah County bans landlords from evicting tenants during coronavirus outbreak

City, county and state leaders have implemented restrictions, like eviction moratoriums to help protect renters during the coronavirus outbreak but these emergency measures don’t stop landlords from suing tenants.

“It’s unbelievable,” Gaiennie said with tears in her eyes. “How could something so good- go so wrong?”

RELATED: The Oregon Clinic lays off 820 workers in Portland area