University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Barrier Busters v. City of Erie DR-PA-0006
Docket / Court 1:02-cv-00203-SPB ( W.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Case Summary
On June 27, 2002, Barrier Busters (a 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 the City of Erie, PA. The Plaintiffs alleged that the city of Erie had frequently failed to ... read more >
On June 27, 2002, Barrier Busters (a 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 the City of Erie, PA. The Plaintiffs alleged that the city of Erie had frequently failed to install mandatory curb cuts and to otherwise comply with the accessibility mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq., when it performed road and sidewalk construction and alterations since the ADA was passed in 1992.

The parties entered a court-approved Partial Consent Decree on March 18, 2003. On September 16, 2003, the parties entered a Second Partial Consent Decree and Partial Settlement; a third consent decree was entered on April 1, 2004, and a fourth on February 2, 2005. The Clearinghouse has not obtained these consent decrees, but it is clear from later documents that Erie made substantial commitments to both ensure adherence to the ADA curb cut requirements for new roads and future resurfacing projects, and to retrofit with curb cuts all areas where roads were built or resurfaced after the January 26, 1992 effective date of the ADA. Erie committed to make annual reports showing where new road work had taken place and where new curb cuts were built. The consent agreements also recognized that Erie was not responsible for the non-compliance of state roads and highways in Erie that were resurfaced by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

In 2006, a separate case was filed against PennDOT, addressing the issues of ADA compliance and curb cuts on state roads in Erie. See Voices for Independence v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in related cases. The plaintiffs in Voices for Independence were represented by the same attorneys as the plaintiffs in this case.

In 2010, the Plaintiffs observed that the City of Erie's street resurfacing in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 should have triggered the construction of ADA-compliant curb cuts, but none were built, contrary to the earlier agreements. On September 27, 2011, the court entered a stipulated order under which Erie agreed to retrofit these sites with curb cuts and to pay Plaintiffs $31,000 in attorneys' fees and costs for the period from March 11, 2011, to August 26, 2011. This stipulated order did not abrogate the earlier Consent Agreements.

Nevertheless, Erie failed to install curb cuts. In an attempt to correct the problem, the parties agreed to a second stipulated order on August 31, 2012. The city promised to take remedial action to install these curb cuts and agreed to pay an unspecified amount to the plaintiffs for attorneys' fees and costs.

On April 18, 2013, the Third Stipulated Order was entered, which changed Erie's reporting obligations to the plaintiffs to make the process more efficient. Erie agreed to pay an unspecified amount to the Plaintiffs for attorneys' fees and costs. The Third Stipulated Order was amended on May 22, 2014, to mandate that construction work performed on or before August 5 must include curb ramps within the same construction season. The City also committed to use “best efforts” to complete 70% of curb ramps within the same calendar year for construction performed after August 5; plaintiffs agreed that, when necessary, construction could be delayed until June 30 of the next calendar year.

On March 11, 2015, plaintiffs moved to enforce the consent decrees. They alleged that the City violated the consent decrees for “an unspecified number of years” by installing fewer than six curb ramps at “T”-shaped intersections and fewer than eight curb ramps at “+”-shaped intersections. After discussions between the parties, Judge Baxter approved a fifth consent decree on May 27, 2015. The Fifth Consent Decree required the City to install 6 or 8 ramps, as appropriate, in all future construction. It also required the City to add ramps across the “leg” of the T in “T”-shaped intersections missing them at a rate of at least 75 ramps per year and included associated reporting requirements.

Three years later, a new disagreement emerged about what kinds of intersections had to be retrofitted with curb ramps. Plaintiffs asserted that adding a thin layer of asphalt to a concrete intersection was an “alteration” under the ADA that required installation curb ramps. Erie disagreed. It argued that it is only required to add curb ramps when replacing old asphalt with new asphalt at asphalt intersections. On September 26, 2018, the court entered the Fourth Stipulated Order, which adopted plaintiffs’ view based on June, 2013 U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines. The Order required:

  • Installation of curb ramps at previously altered asphalt intersections at a rate of at least 125 ramps per year, estimated to finish by the end of 2024.
  • Installation of at least 125 curb ramps at previously altered concrete intersections by the end of 2025.

However, the parties could not reach an agreement on whether there was a legal requirement to install curb ramps at concrete intersections altered prior to July, 2013. Erie preserved its right to litigate this issue in the Fourth Stipulated Order.

The settlement agreements and stipulated orders remain in effect.

Alex Colbert-Taylor - 06/13/2013
Timothy Leake - 11/16/2018


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Reasonable Accommodation
Reporting
Disability
disability, unspecified
Mobility impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Barrier Removal
Disparate Impact
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
Sidewalks
Transportation
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Erie, PA
Plaintiff Description Barrier Busters, a disability advocacy group, and a class of disabled individuals, alleging that Erie, PA failed to provide adequate curb cuts as required by the ADA.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Order Duration 2003 - 2025
Filing Year 2002
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing DR-PA-0004 : Voices for Independence v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0003 : Voices for Independence v. Meadville (W.D. Pa.)
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
1:02-cv-203 (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Barrier Busters v. City of Erie - United States' Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Restrict Plaintiffs’ Action to A Two-Year Pre-Filing Period
DR-PA-0006-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/08/2003
Source: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section
Stipulated Order Regarding Interpretation Among Plaintiffs and Defendant City of Erie [ECF# 42] (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/27/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2011 Progress Report of City of Erie, Pennsylvania ADA Curb Ramp Program [ECF# 48]
DR-PA-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/31/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Stipulated Order Between Plaintiffs and Defendant Erie [ECF# 50] (W.D. Pa.)
DR-PA-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/31/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Stipulated Order Among Plaintiffs and Defendant City of Erie [ECF# 52]
DR-PA-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/15/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Third Stipulated Order Among Plaintiffs and Defendant City of Erie [ECF# 55]
DR-PA-0006-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/22/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fifth Consent Decree Among Plaintiffs and Defendant City of Erie [ECF# 70]
DR-PA-0006-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/26/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fourth Stipulated Order Among Plaintiffs and Defendant City of Erie [ECF# 85]
DR-PA-0006-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/21/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Baxter, Susan Paradise (W.D. Pa.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
DR-PA-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Finnegan, John Mark (Michigan) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0006-0001 | DR-PA-0006-0003 | DR-PA-0006-0004 | DR-PA-0006-0006 | DR-PA-0006-0007 | DR-PA-0006-0008 | DR-PA-0006-9000
Markham, Craig A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0006-0001 | DR-PA-0006-0003 | DR-PA-0006-0004 | DR-PA-0006-0006 | DR-PA-0006-0007 | DR-PA-0006-0008 | DR-PA-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Villella, Gerald (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
DR-PA-0006-0001 | DR-PA-0006-0003 | DR-PA-0006-0004 | DR-PA-0006-0006 | DR-PA-0006-0007 | DR-PA-0006-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -