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Case Name Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania v. Coleman PB-PA-0001
Docket / Court 76-1913 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Attorney Organization Public Interest Law Center (PILCOP)
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 ... read more >
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.

Lauren Yu - 06/02/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Commerce Power
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Right to travel
Defendant-type
Sanitation/Public Works
Transportation
Disability
Mobility impairment
Discrimination-basis
Age discrimination
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
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)
Defendant(s) Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration
Administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration
Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation
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.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Public Interest Law Center (PILCOP)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 06/17/1976
Case Closing Year 1978
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Accessible Public Transit
The Public Interest Law Center
Date: 2019
By: The Public Interest Law Center
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
E.D. Pa.
06/17/1976
Complaint
PB-PA-0001-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
E.D. Pa.
03/17/1978
Memorandum and Order [Dismissing Complaint] (448 F.Supp. 109)
PB-PA-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
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Judges Bechtle, Louis Charles (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0001-0001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cohen, Elias (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0001-0002
Gilhool, Thomas K. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0001-0002
Laski, Frank J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0001-0002
Raggio, James J (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0001-0002

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