On December 17, 2012, a group of disabled persons filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the New York Department of Human Resources and its director in his official capacity under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Food Stamp Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2020(e)(2)(b)(i) and (e)(11), and New York State and City Statutes.
Plaintiffs alleged that D-SNAP, an emergency food stamp program implemented after Hurricane Sandy, discriminated against disabled persons by having only one application center and an in-person registration requirement. Both of the limited availability of registration centers and the requirement for in-person registration were absent from the defendant's standard food stamps program precisely because, as the plaintiffs argued, they discriminate against persons with disabilities who may not be able to travel to the registration center. The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society of New York, asked the court for a preliminary injunction, declaratory and injunctive relief, and attorney's fees.
On March 18, 2013, the District Court (Judge Katherine B. Forrest) denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction as the plaintiffs failed to prove that irreparable harm would result if the injunction was not granted. Judge Forrest also dismissed plaintiffs' complaint finding that the plaintiffs needed to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in his official capacity in order to properly bring the suit as they authorized the D-SNAP plan and also paid part of the liabilities under D-SNAP.
On March 29, 2013, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that added the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in his official capacity and the U.S. Department of Agriculture as defendants. The new complaint also added a claim for retroactive award of D-SNAP benefits to those who were excluded from the program due to the alleged discriminatory practices.
On September 16, 2013, the District Court certified two subclasses: (1) "disabled individuals who were eligible to apply for benefits from the Sandy D-SNAP Program," and (2) "individuals who may be eligible to apply for benefits from a future D-SNAP program and who will need reasonable accommodations because of a disability (or disabilities)."
On November 14, 2013, the District Court dismissed plaintiffs' claims against the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for lack of subject matter jurisdiction primarily on two grounds: (1) the Department of Agriculture assured the District Court that if the other defendants were found liable, then the federal government would pay its share of the D-SNAP benefits, and (2) plaintiffs cannot sue the Department of Agriculture because there is no clear cause of action concerned that if it were to recognize a cause of action against a government agency for providing emergency support to local governments then federal agencies would be more reluctant to lend help and advice during future emergencies. Toney Dick v. Doar
2013 WL 6057949.
As of February 21, 2014, the parties are in settlement negotiations and the case is still ongoing.Brian Kempfer - 02/21/2014