On January 14, 2009, disability rights advocacy organizations and individuals with disabilities in the Los Angeles Area filed a lawsuit on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the City and County of Los Angeles under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; The California Disabled Persons Act, California Civil Code § 54 et. seq. and California Government Code § 11135. The plaintiffs, represented by counsel from Disability Rights Advocates and the Disability Rights Legal Center, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief and attorney fees and costs alleging that the defendants discriminated against the 800,000 people with disabilities in the Los Angeles area by failing to create an emergency response plan that would accommodate individuals with disabilities. That failure, the plaintiffs allege, has caused individuals with disabilities to be a greater risk for serious injury or death as the result of a disaster. Specifically the plaintiffs allege that among other things the defendants failed to provide mechanisms to communicate with individuals with communication-related disabilities during disasters, the defendants also failed to ensure that the emergency shelter facilities were accessible to individuals with mobility related disabilities, and defendants failed to make specific plans for how to transport individuals with disabilities in response to a disaster.
On April 13, 2010, the District Court (Judge Consuelo B. Marshall) certified the case as a class action and identified the class as stipulated to by the parties as all those who are disabled according to the Americans with Disabilities Act that live within the jurisdiction of emergency preparedness services of the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.
On October 7, 2010, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the agency responsible for enforcing the ADA and Section 504, filed a Statement of Interest supporting plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. The statement argued that the defendants violated the ADA and Section 504 by failing to account for individuals with disabilities in its disaster response planning and thereby denied them access to public accommodations that received federal funding.
On February 10, 2011, the District Court (Judge Marshall) issued an order that among other things, partially granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. The Court found the defendants where liable under the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and The California Disabled Persons Act (a violation of the ADA is also constitutes a violation of the California Disabled Persons Act) because the defendants have failed to create any plans that provide persons with disabilities access to the emergency-related benefits of notification regarding emergencies, evacuation services, transportation, and accessible shelters, all of which are provided to those who do not have disabilities. The defendants failed to provide access to shelters by failing to determine which if any of the shelters are accessible to person with disabilities and those with disabilities requiring specific needs such as accommodations that allow for service animals. The court rejected the defendant's argument that it could make ad hoc accommodations for individuals with disabilities and thus did not need to plan for those needs by noting that the purpose of an emergency response plan is to reduce the need for ad hoc decision making by anticipating eventualities. Communities Actively Living Independent and Free v. City of Los Angeles
2011 WL 4595993.
On November 9, 2011, the District Court (Judge Marshall) issued an injunction requiring the City of Los Angeles to hire a consultant to evaluate their current emergency management plan and help create a new plan within three years. The City of Los Angeles appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On February 14, 2012, the appeal was voluntarily dismissed by the parties.
On June 10, 2013, after years of negotiations and hearings on some objections to the settlement agreement, the District Court (Judge Marshall) approved a six-year settlement agreement between the plaintiffs and the County of Los Angeles where the defendants agree to continue to use consultants to improve their emergency response plans that must be adopted within the six-year term of the agreement; appoint a monitor to oversee the implementation of those plans; and the creation of a dispute resolution mechanism using the magistrate judge as the arbiter of any disputes.
On that same day, the District Court (Judge Marshall) also awarded the plaintiffs with attorney fees of $1,225,000 and compensation for the costs of monitoring the settlement agreement of up to $75,000.
On July 18, 2013, the District Court (Judge Marshall) entered an order dismissing the case against the County of Los Angeles, but pursuant to the settlement agreement the court retains jurisdiction over disputes arising under the settlement agreement. As of this writing (4/21/2014) no dispute has been brought before the court.Brian Kempfer - 04/21/2014