Case: Voices for Independence v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

1:06-cv-00078 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Filed Date: March 28, 2006

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On November 10, 2004, Voices for Independence, a non-profit disability advocacy group, and a class of disabled individuals, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, against Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The Plaintiffs alleged that when PennDOT had resurfaced highways in the cities of Meadville and Erie, it failed to install mandatory curb cuts and otherwise comply with the accessibility mandates of Title II of the Amer…

On November 10, 2004, Voices for Independence, a non-profit disability advocacy group, and a class of disabled individuals, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, against Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The Plaintiffs alleged that when PennDOT had resurfaced highways in the cities of Meadville and Erie, it failed to install mandatory curb cuts and otherwise comply with the accessibility mandates of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701. On September 7, 2006, the Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint joining the cities of Meadville and Erie as defendants in the case. Voices for Independence had previously filed a suit against Meadville (see related cases) but joined the City in this case because PennDOT denied legal responsibility to retrofit non-compliant curb cuts at intersections of state and local roads.

On December 22, 2006, PennDOT, Meadville, and the Plaintiffs entered a court-approved settlement wherein Meadville and PennDOT agreed to share responsibility for the remediation of non-compliant intersections where future resurfacing work was to be performed. The Defendants agreed to retrofit existing non-compliant intersections which, under the ADA, should have been remediated as part of earlier resurfacing work performed within the two years prior to the lawsuit. A similar settlement was made between Erie, PennDOT, and the Plaintiffs on April 4, 2007, wherein PennDOT assumed responsibility for constructing ADA-compliant curb cuts in all its future road projects in Erie and to remediate non-compliant curb cuts which were constructed or should have been corrected in conjunction with prior road projects going back to March 28, 2004.

The parties could not agree as to whether a statute of limitations relieved the Defendants of responsibility to retrofit non-compliant intersections modified after January 26, 1992, when the ADA first came into effect, but more than two years prior to the date the lawsuit was filed. The Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue, asking the Court to declare that they were not responsible for these retrofitting these intersections. On September 28, 2007, the Court (Judge Sean J. McLaughlin) issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order in which it denied the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation, 2007 WL 2905887 (W.D. Penn, 2007).

On March 4, 2009, the plaintiffs and PennDOT agreed to a third settlement, in which PennDOT agreed to retrofit intersections where necessary on all roads it resurfaced in Erie and Meadville from January 24, 1992, to March 28, 2004, and to issue an Annual Report of Compliance on or before January 31 of each year during the life of the settlement, listing each curb cuts installed, repaired, or retrofitted, with relevant measurements. If these reports showed that PennDOT was unlikely to complete the retrofitting project by January 1, 2014, then the Plaintiffs were to follow dispute resolution measures outlined in the earlier settlements.

On March 11, 2009, the Plaintiffs, the City of Meadville, and PennDOT entered a Consent Decree, wherein Meadville and PennDOT divided responsibility for certain resurfaced roads, sidewalks, and intersections in Meadville that were still in need of retrofitting in order to be ADA-compliant.

On January 30, 2012, the Plaintiffs and PennDOT entered into a fourth settlement, clarifying the requirements of the earlier settlements and ensuring that within the cities of Erie and Meadville all newly constructed or altered State roads and highways would have curb cuts at all intersections containing curbs or other barriers to entry from a street level pedestrian walkway. In cases where PennDOT felt that this was inappropriate, it was required to provide written notice to the Plaintiffs. PennDOT also agreed to install the curb cuts that it had omitted in work performed since 2007. The settlement also addressed problems with undulating sidewalks and other obstructions. In the settlement, PennDOT agreed to pay an unspecified amount in attorneys' fees and costs to the Plaintiffs.

On May 23, 2012, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Enforce Settlement, alleging that PennDOT had failed to install approximately one thousand curb cuts required by the earlier settlements, and that it failed to file with the Court the detailed annual report listing the exact number and location of each omitted curb cut. This was granted on January 29, 2013.

On April 18, 2013, the Plaintiffs and PennDOT entered into a fifth settlement, which included a list of curb cuts remaining to be installed. PennDOT agreed to install all these curb cuts by December 31, 2013, excepting certain intersections where ongoing construction would prevent them from being completed by the deadline. The fifth settlement recognized that discussions about other ADA compliance issues were still ongoing between the parties. PennDOT agreed to pay an unspecified amount in attorneys' fees and costs to the Plaintiffs. As in the previous four settlements, the court approved the terms of the agreement and retained jurisdiction concerning interpretation of and compliance with the terms of the settlement.

Since entry of the fifth settlement agreement, defendants have continued to submit status reports. On November 23, 2016, the parties submitted a joint motion to dismiss the City of Meadville. They agreed that Meadville had fulfilled its obligations under the settlement and consent decrees by, among other things, installing about 860 curb ramps. The court granted the motion to dismiss on November 28, 2016.

This case was reassigned to Judge Susan Paradise Baxter on February 5, 2019. As of May 21, 2020, the remaining defendants are still subject to the settlement agreements. The court continues to monitor their compliance and the parties file periodic status reports.

Summary Authors

Alex Colbert-Taylor (6/11/2013)

Timothy Leake (11/22/2018)

Alex Moody (5/21/2020)

Related Cases

Barrier Busters v. City of Erie, Western District of Pennsylvania (2002)

Voices for Independence v. Meadville, Western District of Pennsylvania (2004)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4854618/parties/voices-for-independence-vfi-v-commonwealth-of-pennsylvania-department/


Judge(s)

McLaughlin, Sean J. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Finnegan, John Mark (Michigan)

Heberle, Denise M. (Michigan)

Markham, Craig A. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Adsit, Diane Putney (Pennsylvania)

Alizzeo, Gary M. (Pennsylvania)

Bradley, Scott A. (Pennsylvania)

Hotchkiss, David L. (Pennsylvania)

Villella, Gerald (Pennsylvania)

Judge(s)

McLaughlin, Sean J. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Finnegan, John Mark (Michigan)

Heberle, Denise M. (Michigan)

Markham, Craig A. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Adsit, Diane Putney (Pennsylvania)

Alizzeo, Gary M. (Pennsylvania)

Bradley, Scott A. (Pennsylvania)

Hotchkiss, David L. (Pennsylvania)

Villella, Gerald (Pennsylvania)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:06-cv-00078

1:02-cv-00203

1:04-cv-00328

1:11-cv-00016

07-04195

07-04319

Docket [PACER]

Jan. 30, 2018

Jan. 30, 2018

Docket
1

1:06-cv-00078

1:05-mc-02025

CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT

Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

March 28, 2006

March 28, 2006

Complaint
14

1:06-cv-00078

FIRST AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT

Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Sept. 7, 2006

Sept. 7, 2006

Complaint
2223

1:06-cv-00078

Settlement Agreement

Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Dec. 20, 2006

Dec. 20, 2006

Settlement Agreement
3233

1:06-cv-00078

Settlement Agreement City of Erie and PENNDOT

Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007

Settlement Agreement
37

1:06-cv-00078

Memorandum Opinion

Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

2007 WL 2905887

Sept. 28, 2007

Sept. 28, 2007

Order/Opinion
51

1:06-cv-00078

THIRD SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN PLAINTIFFS AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

March 4, 2009

March 4, 2009

Settlement Agreement
53

1:06-cv-00078

CONSENT DECREE

Voices for Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

March 11, 2009

March 11, 2009

Order/Opinion
56

1:06-cv-00078

Fourth Settlement Agreement Between Plaintiffs and Defendant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Voices of Independence v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Jan. 30, 2012

Jan. 30, 2012

Settlement Agreement
58

1:06-cv-00078

Order

May 11, 2012

May 11, 2012

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4854618/voices-for-independence-vfi-v-commonwealth-of-pennsylvania-department/

Last updated June 9, 2022, 3:08 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link

Summons Issued

March 28, 2006

March 28, 2006

PACER
1

Complaint

1 Civil Cover Sheet

View on PACER

2 Summons

View on PACER

3 Receipt of payment

View on PACER

March 28, 2006

March 28, 2006

PACER
2

Summons/Returned Returned Executed

1 Affidavit service

View on PACER

May 26, 2006

May 26, 2006

PACER
3

Summons/Returned Returned Executed

1 Affidavit service

View on PACER

May 26, 2006

May 26, 2006

PACER
4

Summons/Returned Returned Executed

1 Affidavit service

View on PACER

May 26, 2006

May 26, 2006

PACER
5

Summons/Returned Returned Executed

1 Affidavit service

View on PACER

May 26, 2006

May 26, 2006

PACER
6

Motion for Extension of Time to File Answer

1 Proposed Order

View on PACER

May 30, 2006

May 30, 2006

PACER
7

Motion for Extension of Time to File Answer

1 Proposed Order

View on PACER

May 30, 2006

May 30, 2006

PACER
8

Order on Motion for Extension of Time to File Answer

May 30, 2006

May 30, 2006

PACER
9

Answer to Complaint

June 29, 2006

June 29, 2006

PACER
10

Order

June 29, 2006

June 29, 2006

PACER

Quality Control message - Generic Correction

June 30, 2006

June 30, 2006

PACER
11

Jury Demand

June 30, 2006

June 30, 2006

PACER
12

Report of Rule 26(f) Planning Meeting

Aug. 14, 2006

Aug. 14, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Aug. 18, 2006

Aug. 18, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Aug. 22, 2006

Aug. 22, 2006

PACER

Case Management Conference

Aug. 22, 2006

Aug. 22, 2006

PACER
13

Case Management Order

Aug. 22, 2006

Aug. 22, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Sept. 7, 2006

Sept. 7, 2006

PACER
14

Amended Complaint

1 Summons City of Erie

View on PACER

2 Summons City of Meadville

View on PACER

Sept. 7, 2006

Sept. 7, 2006

PACER
15

Stipulation

Sept. 7, 2006

Sept. 7, 2006

PACER

Quality Control message - No signature s/

Sept. 8, 2006

Sept. 8, 2006

PACER

Summons Issued

Sept. 8, 2006

Sept. 8, 2006

PACER

Status Conference

Sept. 13, 2006

Sept. 13, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Sept. 13, 2006

Sept. 13, 2006

PACER
16

Summons/Returned Returned Executed

Sept. 15, 2006

Sept. 15, 2006

PACER
17

Summons/Returned Returned Executed

Sept. 15, 2006

Sept. 15, 2006

PACER
18

Answer to Amended Complaint

Sept. 27, 2006

Sept. 27, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Sept. 29, 2006

Sept. 29, 2006

PACER

Status Conference

Oct. 2, 2006

Oct. 2, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Oct. 2, 2006

Oct. 2, 2006

PACER
19

Answer to Amended Complaint

1 Certificate of Service

View on PACER

Oct. 4, 2006

Oct. 4, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Oct. 12, 2006

Oct. 12, 2006

PACER
20

Status Conference

Oct. 12, 2006

Oct. 12, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Oct. 19, 2006

Oct. 19, 2006

PACER
21

Settlement Agreement

1 Supplement Proposed Settlement Agreement

View on PACER

Oct. 26, 2006

Oct. 26, 2006

PACER

Status Conference

Nov. 2, 2006

Nov. 2, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Nov. 2, 2006

Nov. 2, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Nov. 15, 2006

Nov. 15, 2006

PACER

Status Conference

Nov. 17, 2006

Nov. 17, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Nov. 17, 2006

Nov. 17, 2006

PACER

Status Conference

Dec. 6, 2006

Dec. 6, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Dec. 7, 2006

Dec. 7, 2006

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Dec. 12, 2006

Dec. 12, 2006

PACER
22

Motion for Settlement

1 Proposed Settlement Agreement

View on PACER

Dec. 21, 2006

Dec. 21, 2006

PACER
23

Order on Motion for Settlement

Dec. 22, 2006

Dec. 22, 2006

PACER
24

Transcript

Dec. 22, 2006

Dec. 22, 2006

PACER
25

Motion for Summary Judgment

1 Proposed Order

View on PACER

Jan. 5, 2007

Jan. 5, 2007

PACER
26

Brief in Support of Motion

Jan. 5, 2007

Jan. 5, 2007

PACER
27

Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

1 Exhibit B - Memorandum in Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

View on PACER

2 Exhibit A - Affidavit of Joseph A. Chriest

View on PACER

3 Certificate of Service

View on PACER

Jan. 5, 2007

Jan. 5, 2007

PACER
28

Concise Statement of Material Facts

1 Certificate of Service

View on PACER

Jan. 5, 2007

Jan. 5, 2007

PACER
29

Brief in Support of Motion

Jan. 5, 2007

Jan. 5, 2007

PACER

Quality Control message - document should have been filed as 2 separate documents

Jan. 8, 2007

Jan. 8, 2007

PACER

Settlement Conference

Jan. 17, 2007

Jan. 17, 2007

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Jan. 17, 2007

Jan. 17, 2007

PACER

Settlement Conference

Jan. 31, 2007

Jan. 31, 2007

PACER

Notice of Hearing

March 5, 2007

March 5, 2007

PACER

Notice

March 8, 2007

March 8, 2007

PACER

Notice of Hearing

March 8, 2007

March 8, 2007

PACER

Status Conference

March 27, 2007

March 27, 2007

PACER
30

Brief in Opposition to Motion

April 16, 2007

April 16, 2007

PACER
31

Response

April 16, 2007

April 16, 2007

PACER

Notice of Hearing on Motion

April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007

PACER
32

Settlement Agreement

April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007

PACER
33

Settlement Agreement

April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007

PACER

Notice

May 25, 2007

May 25, 2007

PACER

Response/Briefing Schedule

May 31, 2007

May 31, 2007

PACER
34

Notice

1 Supplemental Case

View on PACER

2 Certificate of Service

View on PACER

May 31, 2007

May 31, 2007

PACER
35

Notice

1 Exhibit 1 (Ledbetter Slip Opinion)

View on PACER

May 31, 2007

May 31, 2007

PACER

Response/Briefing Schedule

June 1, 2007

June 1, 2007

PACER
36

Reply Brief

June 11, 2007

June 11, 2007

PACER
37

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 25 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Allen D. Biehler; denying 27 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Defendant the City of Meadville, Pennsylvania. Signed by Judge Sean J. McLaughlin on 09/28/07. (kas)

Sept. 28, 2007

Sept. 28, 2007

RECAP
38

Notice of Appeal

Oct. 26, 2007

Oct. 26, 2007

PACER
40

TPO (Transcript Purchase Order Request)

Nov. 5, 2007

Nov. 5, 2007

PACER

Appeal Record Complete

Nov. 6, 2007

Nov. 6, 2007

PACER
41

Notice of Cross Appeal

Nov. 9, 2007

Nov. 9, 2007

PACER
43

Status Report

1 Exhibit 2007 Ramp Report - Meadville

View on PACER

Feb. 22, 2008

Feb. 22, 2008

PACER
44

Certificate of Service

Feb. 22, 2008

Feb. 22, 2008

PACER
45

USCA Order - Terminates Appeal

March 17, 2008

March 17, 2008

PACER
46

Status Report

March 31, 2008

March 31, 2008

PACER
47

Status Report

March 31, 2008

March 31, 2008

PACER

Notice of Hearing

June 9, 2008

June 9, 2008

PACER

Status Conference

July 8, 2008

July 8, 2008

PACER

Notice of Hearing

Aug. 4, 2008

Aug. 4, 2008

PACER

Status Conference

Sept. 3, 2008

Sept. 3, 2008

PACER
48

Settlement Conference

Nov. 6, 2008

Nov. 6, 2008

PACER
49

Status Report

Nov. 20, 2008

Nov. 20, 2008

PACER

Quality Control message - Generic Correction

Nov. 21, 2008

Nov. 21, 2008

PACER
50

Amended Document

Nov. 21, 2008

Nov. 21, 2008

PACER
51

Settlement Agreement

1 Exhibit Sch E, Erie

View on PACER

2 Exhibit Sch E Meadville

View on PACER

3 Proposed Order

View on PACER

March 4, 2009

March 4, 2009

PACER
52

Order

March 9, 2009

March 9, 2009

PACER
53

Consent Decree

1 Exhibit 1

View on PACER

2 Exhibit 2

View on PACER

3 Exhibit 3

View on PACER

4 Exhibit 4

View on PACER

5 Exhibit 5

View on PACER

6 Proposed Order

View on PACER

March 11, 2009

March 11, 2009

PACER
54

Consent Decree

March 11, 2009

March 11, 2009

PACER
55

Exhibits in Support

Sept. 2, 2010

Sept. 2, 2010

PACER
56

Settlement Agreement

Jan. 30, 2012

Jan. 30, 2012

PACER
57

Settlement Agreement

May 11, 2012

May 11, 2012

PACER
58

Order

May 11, 2012

May 11, 2012

PACER
59

Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement

1 Exhibit 1

View on PACER

2 Exhibit 2

View on PACER

3 Proposed Order

View on PACER

May 23, 2012

May 23, 2012

RECAP

Response/Briefing Schedule

May 25, 2012

May 25, 2012

PACER
60

Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply

1 Proposed Order

View on PACER

June 14, 2012

June 14, 2012

PACER

Case Details

State / Territory: Pennsylvania

Case Type(s):

Disability Rights

Key Dates

Filing Date: March 28, 2006

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Voices for Independence, a non-profit disability advocacy group, and a class of disabled individuals, alleging the PennDOT and the Cities of Erie and Meadville, PA failed to provide adequate curb cuts and other crosswalk accommodations as required by the ADA.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Pending

Defendants

Pennsylvania, State

City of Meadville, PA (Meadville), City

City of Erie, PA (Erie), City

Defendant Type(s):

Transportation

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.

Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Attorneys fees

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Amount Defendant Pays: Amount unspecified

Order Duration: 2006 - 2016

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)

Implement complaint/dispute resolution process

Monitoring

Reasonable Accommodation

Recordkeeping

Reporting

Issues

General:

Access to public accommodations - governmental

Disparate Impact

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable Modifications

Sidewalks

Transportation

Discrimination-basis:

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Disability:

disability, unspecified

Mobility impairment

Visual impairment

Type of Facility:

Government-run