In the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, on July 25, 2002, eight named plaintiffs sued the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority ("MBTA"), and two of its' officials, for what the plaintiffs alleged was a systematic failure by the defendants to provide basic, necessary public transportation services to plaintiffs and other similarly situated persons having physical, medical, and sensory disabilities. According to the complaint, the defendants' conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12163, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. Plaintiffs sought class action status for their case, and declaratory and injunctive relief to mandate compliance with these federal statutes. The complaint asked that the court require MBTA to make numerous specific improvements, such as making stations accessible, providing directional signage, providing telecommunications access, improving passenger elevators, preventing bus drivers from failing to stop for consumers with disabilities, and keeping wheelchair lifts in working condition. The complaint set out specific examples of how each named plaintiff repeatedly suffered from the MBTA's policies, practices and insensitive employees' conduct, and the MBTA's failure to provide equal access to bus and train facilities, as compared to the access available to non-disabled consumers. The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from Greater Boston Legal Services, asked also that the court award attorneys' fees and costs.
On September 17, 2002, the MBTA filed an answer to the complaint and, two weeks later, the parties agreed to dismiss the MBTA officials from the case. After a year in which discovery presumably occurred, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on February 9, 2004, as well as a motion that the court certify the case as a class action. The amended complaint added another individual plaintiff, but also added an organizational plaintiff, the Boston Center for Independent Living ("BCIL"). The complaint explained that, in addition to providing services and advocacy for persons with disabilities, the majority of the staff and board of the BCIL were persons with disabilities. The thrust of the allegations and relief sought by the amended complaint matched the original complaint.
On February 17, 2004, the court certified plaintiffs' proposed class in the lawsuit. The class included all individuals with mobility, hearing, or visual disabilities, a defined by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131(2), who use, will use, or would use the bus, light rail, and heavy rail rapid transit services operated by the MBTA who are, or will in the future be, denied equal use of these services because the services are not readily accessible to and usable by individuals with such disabilities;
Depositions and the discovery process continued in the following months. On July 25, 2005, plaintiffs moved for issuance of a preliminary injunction, but two days later joined with the defendant in a motion to stay proceedings. District Judge Morris E. Lasker granted the stay on August 1, 2005. Evidently, settlement discussions occurred in the ensuing period, because on April 20, 2006, Judge Lasker granted the parties' joint motion to approve an April 10, 2006, settlement agreement submitted to the court. The judge ordered publication of the proposed settlement and set a fairness hearing for June 15, 2006.
On June 15, 2006, following a hearing, the judge issued his unpublished order and final judgment approving the settlement. The settlement contained specific obligations for the MBTA to improve aspects of, for example, bus and/or train operations, maintenance, purchase, rehabilitation, access emergencies, station and elevator improvements, and service planning and performance; to provide alternative transportation service, updated staff training and management systems, and improved complaint response; to study accessible service needs, encourage use by disabled persons of MBTA services, and educate the public about the MBTA's providing accessible services; and to conduct bus operator performance monitoring which, itself, would be monitored by a jointly-selected independent court-appointed monitor responsible for assessing compliance with the settlement agreement. The agreement set out a five-year period for the obligations it imposed, with provision for modification of the period and the obligations, as well as dispute resolution.
The docket sheet for the case reflects that, in January 2007, an independent monitor was appointed by Judge Lasker, at the parties' joint request. We have no information showing more recent activity in the case.Mike Fagan - 06/05/2008