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Case Name Scharff v. Shah-Gavnoudias DR-NY-0018
Docket / Court 10-cv-04208 ( E.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Case Summary
On September 15, 2010, plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, filed suit against the County of Nassau and the Commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Public Works, in her official capacity, for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act. The three ... read more >
On September 15, 2010, plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, filed suit against the County of Nassau and the Commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Public Works, in her official capacity, for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act. The three named plaintiffs were visually impaired residents and members of the Long Island Council of the Blind (LICB), a private volunteer organization affiliated with the American Council of the Blind of New York. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees. The case was initially assigned to Judge Denis Reagan Hurley and was referred to Judge Gary R. Brown over the course of litigation.

Plaintiffs had advocated since 2000 for the installation of accessible pedestrian signals (APS) in Nassau County. According to plaintiffs, defendants were obligated to install APS at intersections controlled by the county under 28 CFR § 35.130, Title II of the ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act. Plaintiffs stated that despite their repeated requests, local officials refused to install APS on high traffic roads, even in areas where renovations were already underway. The plaintiffs alleged that the discrimination by the defendants was knowing and intentional, causing them injury to their civil rights, emotional distress, and apprehension of bodily harm. Defendants admitted that they did not have a formalized process or policy for considering the installation of APS but denied violating the ADA. A lengthy discovery process followed.

On April 17, 2012, the parties held a settlement conference during which the plaintiffs agreed to supply the defendants with a modified list of the intersections on one of the high traffic streets that was one of the subjects of the suit. The defendants agreed to then report back within two weeks of receiving the list to advise how long it would take to do a feasibility study of those intersections. Other components of a resolution included the adoption of a policy that would include the installation of APS equipment in new installation or renovations of crosswalks, and a new policy on how the defendants would deal with individual requests for accommodations. Plaintiffs notified the court that the settlement discussions failed on May 11, 2012.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on February 8, 2013, and the court denied the cross-motions on June 2, 2014, because an issue of fact regarding the extent to which defendants were liable to comply with regulations precluded a granting summary judgment in favor of either party. In the memorandum denying summary judgment, the court enumerated the three necessary elements plaintiffs need to establish a violation under the ADA: (1) they are “qualified individuals”with a disability; (2) that the defendants are subject to the ADA; and (3) that plaintiffs were denied the opportunity to participate in or benefit from defendants’ services, programs, or activities, or were otherwise discriminated against by defendants, by reason of plaintiffs’ disabilities. The same requirements apply to the Rehabilitation Act. The court agreed with plaintiffs that, contrary to defendants’ allegations, pedestrian crossing signals constitute services, programs, activities or facilities. The court denied plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment because triable issues of fact as to whether defendants were entitled to defenses provided under the relevant regulations remained. Federal regulations contain an exception which protects public entities from having to make any modifications or take any actions that would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity (28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(7) and 28 23 C.F.R. § 35.150(a)). Defendants argued that the exceptions applied because installation of APS would alter the existing pedestrian crossing facilities and equipment, and that it was structurally impractical and infeasible to install APS in all locations, a fact which plaintiffs seemed to acknowledge. 2014 WL 2454639.

On November 24, 2015, less than a week before the trial was scheduled to begin, the parties reported to the court that the case was settled. Following the settlement of the action, the parties submitted a consent decree and plaintiffs, as the prevailing parties, moved for attorney’s fees (in the amount of $217,110.80) with opposition from the defendants. The court granted the plaintiffs’ motion on May 20, 2016. The exact details of the consent decree are unavailable but contained both monetary and non-monetary terms. Lack of responsiveness by defendants prompted plaintiffs to bring defendants’ inaction to the court’s attention. The court appointed a monitor on July 15, 2016, with monitor’s fees to be paid by the defendants. Details regarding the term of monitoring required by the consent decree are unavailable. 2016 WL 3166848.

Hannah Juge - 11/11/2021

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Content of Injunction
Sanitation/Public Works
Visual impairment
Accommodation / Leave
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Effective Communication (ADA)
Reasonable Accommodations
Screen readers and similar accessibility devices
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) County of Nassau
Plaintiff Description The three named plaintiffs were longtime residents of Nassau County and members of the Long Island Council of the Blind, an organization dedicated to educating the public about the rights of visually impaired people and providing maximum support to visually impaired individuals in order to facilitate their ability to be self-sufficient and productive members of society.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 09/15/2010
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
DR-NY-0018-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
DR-NY-0018-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum & Order [ECF# 43] (2014 WL 2454639)
DR-NY-0018-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 68] (2016 WL 3172798)
DR-NY-0018-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Brown, Gary Richard (E.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Hurley, Denis Reagan (E.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
DR-NY-0018-0002 | DR-NY-0018-0003 | DR-NY-0018-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Briglio, Robert R (New York) show/hide docs
DR-NY-0018-0001 | DR-NY-0018-9000
Coleman, Martin J (New York) show/hide docs
DR-NY-0018-0001 | DR-NY-0018-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Reissman, Ralph J. (New York) show/hide docs

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