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Case Name Californians for Disability Rights, Inc. v. California Department of Transportation DR-CA-0002
Docket / Court 4:06-cv-05125-SBA ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
On August 23, 2006, the disability rights group Californians for Disability Rights, Inc. and two disabled individuals acting on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated sued the California Department of Transportation ("Caltrans") and its director in the U.S. District Court for the ... read more >
On August 23, 2006, the disability rights group Californians for Disability Rights, Inc. and two disabled individuals acting on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated sued the California Department of Transportation ("Caltrans") and its director in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking to remedy an alleged "systematic pattern and practice of discrimination being committed by Caltrans against people with mobility and vision disabilities." Represented by the public interest law office Disability Rights Advocates, the plaintiffs alleged that Caltrans, which provided an extensive network of facilities throughout the state including sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and a system of Park and Ride facilities, systematically failed to maintain pedestrian rights of way or provide accessible alternative routes in construction areas. The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on September 19, 2006, adding as a plaintiff another disability rights group (California Council of the Blind) and alleging seven causes of action, four of which were based on state law and two of which were federal claims. The two federal claims arose under, respectively, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 to 12213, and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794. The seventh cause of action requested declaratory relief "in order that each of the parties may know their respective rights and duties and act accordingly." Plaintiffs did not seek damages but, rather, an injunction to prevent Caltrans from continuing its alleged violations of state and federal law.

On September 20, 2007, Caltrans filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, seeking dismissal of all claims except for the one based on the Rehabilitation Act. On October 23, 2007, plaintiffs filed their motion for class certification, seeking class certification for their federal law claims only. In her March 13, 2008, unpublished order, District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ruled on these motions, as follows:

She granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification, defining the class as "All persons with mobility and/or vision disabilities who are allegedly being denied access under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 due to barriers along sidewalks, cross-walks, pedestrian underpasses, pedestrian overpasses and any other outdoor designated pedestrian walkways throughout the state of California which are owned and/or maintained by the California Department of Transportation. For purposes of class certification, persons with mobility disabilities are those who use wheelchairs, scooters, crutches, walkers, canes or similar devices to assist their navigation along sidewalks. For purposes of class certification, persons with vision disabilities are those who due to a vision impairment use canes or service animals for navigation along sidewalks."

Judge Armstrong dismissed the plaintiffs' state law-based claims, without prejudice, given that the defendants contended her federal court lacked jurisdiction over them and the plaintiffs agreed to dismiss them. She refused to dismiss the ADA claim, since Caltrans had not shown that it was entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity from ADA claims and since precedent allowed discrimination lawsuits against state officials. The judge agreed with the defendants, however, that no private right of action existed to enforce either the self-evaluation or transition plan federal regulations implementing Title II of the ADA. Thus, that component of the plaintiffs' claims was also dismissed. The ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims remained pending against the state.

On January 29, 2009, the defendants once again moved for judgment on the pleadings. On February 17, 2009, the plaintiffs filed a cross motion for summary judgment regarding defendants' obligations to make temporary pedestrian routes accessible. In an order filed on March 31, 2009, Judge Armstrong granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.

On June 4, 2009, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on (1) whether Caltrans' policies for design of pedestrian facilities complied with federal law and regulations, and (2) whether Caltrans had system-wide procedures to ensure that pedestrian facilities were designed and constructed pursuant to its design policies. Judge Armstrong denied this motion in an order filed on August 4, 2009, finding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Caltrans provided accessible pedestrian facilities to the disabled petitioners.

A court trial began on September 16, 2009. During the proceedings, however, the parties proposed temporarily suspending the trial to engage in settlement discussions before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte. The parties reached an agreement and filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of settlement on December 22, 2009. On January 25, 2010, Judge Armstrong issued an order granting the motion for preliminary approval of the settlement.

On June 2, 2010, Judge Armstrong approved a proposed settlement agreement. The settlement agreement included (1) a funding commitment of $1.1 billion over the next thirty years to eliminate barriers and improve access for people with mobility and vision disabilities to 2,500 miles of sidewalk and Park and Ride facilities owned or maintained by Caltrans; (2) a monitoring procedure, which would include the hiring of an access consultant to oversee compliance for the first seven years, and mandatory annual reporting by Caltrans for the next thirty years; (3) a grievance procedure for public complaints relating to access issues and Caltrans responses thereto; and (4) payment of attorneys' fees for past work and future compliance services. All pending issues in the Class Action were then dismissed.

Additional information about the settlement is available from plaintiffs' counsel, Disability Rights Advocates, at http://www.dralegal.org/cases/public_entities/FAQ_Settlement.php

David Priddy - 07/19/2011


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Disability
Mobility impairment
Visual impairment
General
Sidewalks
Transportation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) California Department of Transportation
Plaintiff Description All persons with mobility and/or vision disabilities who are allegedly being denied access under the ADA and the Rehab. Act due to barriers along outdoor sidewalks, cross-walks, and similar pedestrian routes controlled by California DOT.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2010 - 2035
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing DR-CA-0025 : Californians for Disability Rights, Inc. v. California Department of Transportation (State Court)
Docket(s)
4:06-cv-05125-SBA (N.D. Cal.) 08/31/2010
DR-CA-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Settlement Agreement re:Class Action
DR-CA-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Class Action Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights: Americans with Disabilities Act; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; Cal. Civ. Code § 54, Et seq.; Cal. Civ. Code § 51, Et Seq.; Cal. Civ. Code § 4450, Et Seq.; Cal. Gov’t. Code 11135, Etseq. 08/23/2006
DR-CA-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Amended Class Action Complaint 09/19/2006
DR-CA-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 03/13/2008 (249 F.R.D. 334) (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0002-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order Denying Summary Judgment 08/04/2009 (2009 WL 2392156) (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0002-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Press Release 12/22/2009
DR-CA-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Order re: Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement 01/25/2010
DR-CA-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Application for Final Approval of Proposed Settlement Agreement and Overruling Objections to Settlement Agreement 06/02/2010 (2010 WL 2228531) (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0002-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Armstrong, Saundra Brown (N.D. Cal.)
DR-CA-0002-0003 | DR-CA-0002-0006 | DR-CA-0002-0007 | DR-CA-0002-0009
Zimmerman, Bernard S. Court not on record
DR-CA-0002-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Allen, Jose R (California)
DR-CA-0002-0004
Heller, Roger Norton (California)
DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Kimber, Mary-Lee E. (California)
DR-CA-0002-0001 | DR-CA-0002-0002 | DR-CA-0002-0004 | DR-CA-0002-0005 | DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Kohrman, Daniel B. (District of Columbia)
DR-CA-0002-0004 | DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Markwalder, Alexius M. (California)
DR-CA-0002-0001 | DR-CA-0002-0002 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Nepveu, Julie (District of Columbia)
DR-CA-0002-0004 | DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Paradis, Laurence W. (California)
DR-CA-0002-0001 | DR-CA-0002-0002 | DR-CA-0002-0004 | DR-CA-0002-0005 | DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Agarwal, Ankush (California)
DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Beals, Ronald (California)
DR-CA-0002-0004
Chang, Eudeen Y. (California)
DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Chilleen, Michael J. (California)
DR-CA-0002-0004
Cho, Alana R. (California)
DR-CA-0002-9000
Drury, Michael (California)
DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Gossage, David (California)
DR-CA-0002-0004
Harrington, Gerald Michael (California)
DR-CA-0002-0004 | DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Hurley, Gregory F. (California)
DR-CA-0002-0004 | DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Sandler, David N. (California)
DR-CA-0002-0009 | DR-CA-0002-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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