On November 10, 2004, Voices for Independence, a non-profit disability advocacy group, and a class of disabled individuals, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, against Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The Plaintiffs alleged that when PennDOT had resurfaced highways in the cities of Meadville and Erie, it failed to install mandatory curb cuts, and to otherwise comply with the accessibility mandates of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701. On September 7, 2006, the Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint joining the cities of Meadville and Erie as defendants in the case. Voices for Independence had previously filed a suit against Meadville (see related cases) but joined the City in this case because PennDOT denied legal responsibility to retrofit non-compliant curb cuts at intersections of state and local roads.
On December 22, 2006, PennDOT, Meadville, and the Plaintiffs entered a court-approved settlement wherein Meadville and PennDOT agreed to share responsibility for the remediation of non-compliant intersections where future resurfacing work was to be performed. The Defendants agreed to retrofit existing non-compliant intersections which, under the ADA, should have been remediated as part of earlier resurfacing work performed within the twos year prior to the lawsuit. A similar settlement was made between Erie, PennDOT, and the Plaintiffs on April 4, 2007, wherein PennDOT assumed responsibility for constructing ADA compliant curb cuts in all its future road projects in Erie and to remediate non-compliant curb cuts which were constructed or which should have been corrected in conjunction with prior road projects going back to March 28, 2004.
The parties could not agree as to whether a statute of limitations relieved the Defendants of responsibility to retrofit non-compliant intersections modified after January 26, 1992, when the ADA first came into effect, but more than two years prior to the date the lawsuit was filed. The Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue, asking the Court to declare that they were not responsible for these retrofitting these intersections. On September 28, 2007, the Court (Judge Sean J. McLaughlin) issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order in which it denied the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation, 2007 WL 2905887 (W.D. Penn, 2007).
On March 4, 2009, the plaintiffs and PennDOT agreed to a Third Settlement, wherein PennDOT agreed to retrofit intersections where necessary on all roads it resurfaced in Erie and Meadville from January 24, 1992, to March 28, 2004, and to issue an Annual Report of Compliance on or before January 31 of each year during the life of the settlement, listing each curb cuts installed, repaired, or retrofitted, with relevant measurements. If these reports showed that PennDOT was unlikely to complete the retrofitting project by January 1, 2014, than the Plaintiffs were to follow dispute resolution measures outlined in the earlier settlements.
On March 11, 2009, the Plaintiffs, the City of Meadville, and PennDOT entered Consent Decree, wherein Meadville and PennDOT divided responsibility for certain resurfaced roads, sidewalks, and intersections in Meadville that were still in need of retrofitting in order to be ADA-compliant.
On January 1, 2012, the Plaintiffs and PennDOT entered a fourth Settlement, clarifying the requirements of the earlier settlements and ensure that within the Cities of Erie and Meadville all newly constructed or altered State roads and highways would have curb cuts at all intersections containing curbs or other barriers to entry from a street level pedestrian walkway. In cases where PennDOT felt that this was inappropriate, it was required by the settlement to provide written notice to the Plaintiffs. PennDOT also agreed to install curb cuts that it had omitted in work performed since 2007. The settlement also addressed problems with undulating sidewalks and other obstructions. In the settlement, PennDOT agreed to pay an unspecified amount in attorneys' fees and costs to the Plaintiffs.
On May 23, 2012, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Enforce Settlement, alleging that PennDOT had failed to install approximately one thousand curb cuts required by the earlier settlements, and that it failed to file with the Court the detailed annual report listing the exact number and location of each omitted curb cut. This was granted on January 29, 2013.
On April 18, 2013, the Plaintiffs and PennDOT entered into a Fifth Settlement Agreement, which included a list of curb cuts remaining to be installed. PennDOT agreed to install all these curb cuts by December 31, 2013, excepting certain intersections where ongoing construction would prevent them from being completed by the deadline. The fifth settlement recognized that discussions about other ADA compliance issues were still ongoing between the parties. PennDOT agreed to pay an unspecified amount in attorneys' fees and costs to the Plaintiffs. As in the previous four settlements, the court approved the terms of the agreement and retained jurisdiction concerning interpretation of and compliance with the terms of the settlement.Alex Colbert-Taylor - 06/11/2013