November 08, 2006

A closely-watched legal battle led by Jenner & Block attorneys on behalf of persons with disabilities in Lake County, Indiana, has resulted in federal court approved consent decrees mandating that public transportation services be improved for the disabled in northwestern Indiana.  

The Firm represented Everybody Counts Center for Independent Living, a not-for-profit advocacy agency and a certified class of persons with disabilities in a pro bono class action lawsuit filed six years ago that alleged a systemic failure by the governmental oversight entities and transportation providers to provide Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant public transportation services to persons with disabilities.

The lawsuit alleged multiple violations of the ADA, which was passed by Congress more than 15 years ago to protect disabled individuals’ ability to have equal access to public faculties and services.   The complaint contended that the defendant state agencies misused federal funds earmarked for improving transportation services to people with disabilities and that they ignored repeated complaints about the lack of transportation for persons with disabilities in Lake County, Indiana. 

The October 6, 2006 court-sanctioned agreements requires that the defendants take immediate steps to improve services for the disabled, including requiring specific training for drivers on how to interact with people with disabilities and establishing policies and procedures to ensure that persons disabilities can avail themselves of public transportation services which are fully ADA-compliant.

“The outcome of this matter sends a strong message that the ADA is a law that must be fully complied with and reaffirms the fundamental rights of the disabled,” said Partner Steven M. Siros, who led the Firm’s legal team.

One defendant, Northwest Community Action Corporation, has not agreed to settle and the Firm is preparing for trial.

In addition to Mr. Siros, the Jenner & Block team included Associates Nada Djordjevic, Katherine Rahill, Emma J. Sullivan, Kristen M. Boike, Tracy E. Dardick, Christina Tomaras Hansen, Andrew F. Merrick, Elizabeth A. Kalisz, Laura E. Pelanek, Shana A. Shifrin, Benjamin M. Vetter, Anne K. Wasilchuk, and Melissa S. Wills.