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Case Name Voices for Independence v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation DR-PA-0004
Docket / Court 1:06-cv-78 ( W.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Goals and Timekeeping
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitoring
Reasonable Accommodation
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Disability
disability, unspecified
Mobility impairment
Visual impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Disparate Impact
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
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) City of Erie, PA
City of Meadville, PA
Pennsylvania
Plaintiff Description Voices for Independence, a non-profit disability advocacy group, and a class of disabled individuals, alleging the PennDOT and the Cities of Erie and Meadville, PA failed to provide adequate curb cuts and other crosswalk accommodations as required by the ADA.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2006 - 2014
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing DR-PA-0003 : Voices for Independence v. Meadville (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0006 : Barrier Busters v. City of Erie (W.D. Pa.)
Docket(s)
1:06-cv-00078-SJM (W.D. Pa.) 06/03/2013
DR-PA-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT 03/28/2006
DR-PA-0004-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
FIRST AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT 09/07/2006
DR-PA-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement 12/20/2006
DR-PA-0004-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement City of Erie and PENNDOT 04/19/2007
DR-PA-0004-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion 09/28/2007 (2007 WL 2905887) (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0004-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
THIRD SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN PLAINTIFFS AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION 03/04/2009
DR-PA-0004-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
CONSENT DECREE 03/11/2009 (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0004-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fourth Settlement Agreement Between Plaintiffs and Defendant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation 01/30/2012
DR-PA-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 05/11/2012 (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0004-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT WITH PENNDOT 05/23/2012
DR-PA-0004-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION RESPECTING PENNDOT’S VIOLATIONS OF SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS REGARDING OMITTED CURB RAMPS 07/20/2012
DR-PA-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fifth Settlement Agreement between Plaintiffs and Defendant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation 04/18/2013
DR-PA-0004-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 04/19/2013 (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0004-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges McLaughlin, Sean J. (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0004-0001 | DR-PA-0004-0003 | DR-PA-0004-0007 | DR-PA-0004-0009 | DR-PA-0004-0010 | DR-PA-0004-0012 | DR-PA-0004-0013 | DR-PA-0004-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Finnegan, John Mark (Michigan)
DR-PA-0004-0002 | DR-PA-0004-0003 | DR-PA-0004-0004 | DR-PA-0004-0005 | DR-PA-0004-0006 | DR-PA-0004-0007 | DR-PA-0004-0008 | DR-PA-0004-0009 | DR-PA-0004-0010 | DR-PA-0004-9000
Heberle, Denise M. (Michigan)
DR-PA-0004-0007 | DR-PA-0004-0009 | DR-PA-0004-0010
Markham, Craig A. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0004-0002 | DR-PA-0004-0003 | DR-PA-0004-0004 | DR-PA-0004-0005 | DR-PA-0004-0006 | DR-PA-0004-0007 | DR-PA-0004-0008 | DR-PA-0004-0009 | DR-PA-0004-0010 | DR-PA-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Adsit, Diane Putney (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0004-0009
Alizzeo, Gary M. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0004-9000
Bradley, Scott A. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0004-0003 | DR-PA-0004-0006 | DR-PA-0004-0009 | DR-PA-0004-0010 | DR-PA-0004-0011 | DR-PA-0004-9000
Hotchkiss, David L. (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0004-0007 | DR-PA-0004-0009 | DR-PA-0004-9000
Villella, Gerald (Pennsylvania)
DR-PA-0004-0010 | DR-PA-0004-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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