Case: Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania v. Coleman

2:76-cv-01913 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Filed Date: June 17, 1976

Closed Date: March 17, 1978

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On June 17, 1976, a coalition of disability rights advocate groups, mobile disabled individuals, and elderly individuals filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs sued the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as federal officials representing the Urban Mass Transportation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration under the Urban Mass Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. §§ 1601, et seq…

On June 17, 1976, a coalition of disability rights advocate groups, mobile disabled individuals, and elderly individuals filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs sued the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as federal officials representing the Urban Mass Transportation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration under the Urban Mass Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. §§ 1601, et seq.); the Federal Aid Highway Acts (23 U.S.C. §§ 101, et seq.); the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. § 794); the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 701-706); and the Commerce Clause, the Privileges and Immunities Clause, and the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Represented by the Public Interest Law Center, the plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a number of federal laws were passed to make public transportation accessible for people with mobility problems. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had not complied with federal law because federal funds were not solely used to purchase the "Transbus," a fully accessible, low-floor, wide-door, ramped bus, was the only model that could meet the requirements of the law. In their complaint, they defined the class as "all mobile disabled and elderly persons who are denied ready access to and effective use of federally financed public mass transportation by reason of physical and structural barriers in the design of transit equipment which render such persons transportation handicapped, and who would be able to effectively utilize public mass transportation if the functional capacities of mobile disabled and elderly persons were included as a basis for standards for the design and performance of buses, other transit vehicles and facilities."

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. They argued that the federal statutes merely encouraged rather than mandating "special efforts" to make mass transportation services available. Under this interpretation, the Secretary of Transportation had full discretion for how to implement the policy.

In January 1977, the Secretary of Transportation was replaced with a new Secretary. The new Secretary of Transportation issued a policy on May 19, 1977, that mandated a low-floor, wide-door, ramped model bus.

On June 6, 1977, the court held a hearing to determine whether the case was moot in light of the new policy. Shortly after the hearing, the plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether the federal statutes required UMTA funds be used only to purchase Transbus. They also argued that the case was not moot because the new Secretary of Transportation was only a temporary political appointee whose decisions were not binding upon his successors. On March 17, 1978, the court declared the case moot because the new policy was "so nearly identical [to the plaintiffs' request] as to fulfill [their] objective." 448 F. Supp. 109.

This case has ended.

Summary Authors

Lauren Yu (6/2/2021)

People


Judge(s)

Bechtle, Louis Charles (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Cohen, Elias (Pennsylvania)

Gilhool, Thomas K. (Pennsylvania)

Laski, Frank J. (Pennsylvania)

Raggio, James J (Pennsylvania)

Judge(s)

Bechtle, Louis Charles (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Cohen, Elias (Pennsylvania)

Gilhool, Thomas K. (Pennsylvania)

Laski, Frank J. (Pennsylvania)

Raggio, James J (Pennsylvania)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

2:76-cv-01913

Complaint

June 17, 1976

June 17, 1976

Complaint

2:76-cv-01913

Memorandum and Order [Dismissing Complaint]

448 F.Supp. 109

March 17, 1978

March 17, 1978

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated Aug. 4, 2022, 3:10 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Pennsylvania

Case Type(s):

Public Benefits/Government Services

Key Dates

Filing Date: June 17, 1976

Closing Date: March 17, 1978

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

All mobile disabled and elderly persons who are denied ready access to and effective use of federally financed public mass transportation by reason of physical and structural barriers in the design of transit equipment which render such persons transportation handicapped.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Attorney Organizations:

Public Interest Law Center (PILCOP)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Unknown

Defendants

Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation (Washington), Federal

Administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (Washington), Federal

Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Federal

Defendant Type(s):

Sanitation/Public Works

Transportation

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.

Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201

Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)

Constitutional Clause(s):

Commerce Power

Due Process

Due Process: Substantive Due Process

Right to travel

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General:

Access to public accommodations - governmental

Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)

Discrimination-basis:

Age discrimination

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Disability:

Mobility impairment