On September 26, 2011, individuals with disabilities and several related organizations filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against New York City and its mayor under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq., Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq., and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), New York City Admin. Code §8-101 et seq. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief and attorneys' fees.
The plaintiffs, represented by counsel from the Disability Rights Advocates, claimed that the defendants unlawfully discriminated against disabled individuals by inadequately planning for the evacuation of people with disabilities, failing to provide an accessible shelter system; ignoring the unique needs of people with disabilities in the event of a power outage; failing to communicate adequately with people with special needs during an emergency; and failing to account for the needs of people with disabilities in recovery operations following a disaster. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the City's discrimination in emergency planning was demonstrated by the City's response to Hurricane Irene and September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which failed in various ways to appropriately accommodate those with disabilities.
On June 29, 2012, plaintiffs amended their complaint to add a plaintiff and clarify their factual claims.
On November 7, 2012, the District Court (Judge Jesse M. Furman) issued an opinion ruling that both the organized and individual plaintiffs had standing to sue and certifying the class defined as "all people with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12102, who are within the City and the jurisdiction served by the City's emergency preparedness programs and services."
On May 10, 2013, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a statement of interest urging the court to find that the defendants violated the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act and noting among other things that the defendants nowhere contended that making reasonable accommodations was impractical.
On November 7, 2013, after a six day trial on the question of liability the District Court (Judge Furman) ruled that the defendants violated the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the NYCHRL. Specifically the court found that: "(1) The City's evacuation plans do not accommodate the needs of people with disabilities with respect to high-rise evacuation and accessible transportation; (2) its shelter plans do not require that the shelter system be sufficiently accessible, either architecturally or programmatically, to accommodate people with disabilities in an emergency; (3) the City has no plan for canvassing or for otherwise ensuring that people with disabilities -- who may, because of their disability, be unable to leave their building after a disaster -- are able to access the services provided by the City after an emergency; (4) the City's plans to distribute resources in the aftermath of a disaster do not provide for accessible communications at the facilities where resources are distributed; (5) the City's outreach and education program fails in several respects to provide people with disabilities the same opportunity as others to develop a personal emergency plan; and (6) the City lacks sufficient plans to provide people with disabilities information about the existence and location of accessible services in an emergency." Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled v. Bloomberg
290 F.R.D. 409.
On December 4, 2013, the District Court ordered the parties to engage in settlement negotiation with a mediator to be paid for by the defendants. As of December 6, 2013, the negotiations are still on-going.Brian Kempfer - 12/06/2013