Case: Scharff v. Shah-Gavnoudias

6:10-cv-04208 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Filed Date: Sept. 15, 2010

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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 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 Yo…

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.

Summary Authors

Hannah Juge (11/11/2021)

People


Judge(s)

Brown, Gary Richard (New York)

Hurley, Denis Reagan (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Briglio, Robert R (New York)

Coleman, Martin J (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Reissman, Ralph J. (New York)

Judge(s)

Brown, Gary Richard (New York)

Hurley, Denis Reagan (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Briglio, Robert R (New York)

Coleman, Martin J (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Reissman, Ralph J. (New York)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

6:10-cv-04208

Docket [PACER]

July 15, 2016

July 15, 2016

Docket
1

6:10-cv-04208

Complaint

Scharff v. County of Nassau

Sept. 15, 2010

Sept. 15, 2010

Complaint
43

6:10-cv-04208

Memorandum & Order

Scharff v. County of Nassau

2014 WL 2454639

June 2, 2014

June 2, 2014

Order/Opinion
68

6:10-cv-04208

Order

Scharff v. County of Nassau

2016 WL 3172798

June 6, 2016

June 6, 2016

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated June 1, 2022, 3:16 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: New York

Case Type(s):

Disability Rights

Key Dates

Filing Date: Sept. 15, 2010

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

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.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

County of Nassau (Nassau), County

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Sanitation/Public Works

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)

Monetary Relief

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: >$217,110.80

Content of Injunction:

Monitor/Master

Issues

General:

Effective Communication (ADA)

Reasonable Accommodations

Screen readers and similar accessibility devices

Sidewalks

Transportation

Discrimination-area:

Accommodation / Leave

Discrimination-basis:

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Disability:

Visual impairment