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US Supreme Court denies petition to intervene in ADA case out of Trinidad

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Posted at 4:16 PM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 18:16:40-05

TRINIDAD — The Supreme Court of the United States has declined to intervene on the behalf of the City of Trinidad in a lawsuit brought by a disabled man who complained for years about non-compliant sidewalks and sought relief with a lawsuit.

The high court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari, an order from a higher court to a lower court to force the review of a case for any irregularities.

Earlier this year, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Stephen Hamer who sued the city over Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) compliance in regards to curbs and sidewalks.

Title II of ADA deals with prohibiting discrimination in programs, activities, and services of public entities, to include state and local governments.

Hamer, who is disabled and uses a power wheelchair, argued he complained to the city for more than two years about sidewalk violations. His complaints included claims he twice fell out of his wheelchair when forced to drive his chair on the street.

Hamer also filed a complaint with the Department of Justice in 2014, before he filed a discrimination lawsuit in October 2016.

His lawsuit sought ”injunctive relief requiring City officials to remedy the City’s non-compliant sidewalks and curb cuts, monetary damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.”

He presented in court information from his own expert stating 67% of curb ramps are non-compliant with ADA.

A district court’s ruling sided with the City of Trinidad by citing the state of Colorado’s two-year statute of limitations.

However, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, stating the limitation only applies to the amount of damages to be potentially awarded.

The city petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene based on the argument that “an individual with a disability need not be timely in pursuing any form of relief under Title II, but rather may take advantage of the ‘repeated violations’ doctrine to sue years (or even decades) after first experiencing alleged discrimination, so long as the individual can point to a single violation within the relevant statute of limitations period.”

The city maintains allowing lawsuits after the statute of limitations would make defense of ADA claims “extremely difficult” stating the complexity of ADA “all but ensures that public entities cannot maintain perfection in every aspect of their compliance obligations.”

Furthermore, the city brought forth concerns of not being able to budget appropriately to address ADA compliance issues due to potentially “jumping from one untimely ADA suit to the next, lacking any ability to draft a cohesive approach to ADA repairs.”

Attorneys argue Hamer knew of potential ADA non-compliance for two years before filing his lawsuit. In regards to the Tenth Circuit of Appeals ruling, the attorneys for the city argued in their petition that the court relied on “an incorrect focus” and case law arguments not based on ADA violations.

Attorneys for Hamer counterargue that the Tenth Circuit ruling does not eliminate the statute of limitations and allow repeated lawsuits, rather it protects a plaintiff the ability to sue for “injuries experienced within the limitations period.”