26 Years After Passage of the ADA, Enforcement Is Still Necessary
July 26, 2016

July 26, 2016 marks the 26th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The 26th also marks the start of an important trial to enforce the ADA against discriminatory policies by AAA and Automobile Club of Southern California (“ACSC”). The trial will highlight the continuing need for disabled persons to enforce their rights under the ADA to stop discrimination.

Christie Rudder, a disabled wheelchair user, claims she was left stranded for 6 hours in a deserted L.A. strip mall when she broke down on the freeway because she could not climb into a tow truck because of her disability. (Rudder v. Automobile Club of Southern California and The American Automobile Association, et al., Case No. 8:14-cv-247.) From Fresno to California, over 6 million people are Automobile Club of Southern California members. However, during litigation, Ms. Rudder discovered the Automobile Club of Southern California only contracts with two companies that have a truck that may accommodate a AAA member that uses a wheelchair. The lack of resources demonstrates why disabled members are left stranded.

Instead of providing transportation with their towed cars, ACSC’s policy is the “friends and family plan”—telling disabled members to get friends and family to pick them up. The ADA requires businesses to modify their policies and practices to provide “equal benefits” to disabled members. However, AAA/ACSC do not follow their own policies and have not made accessible resources available so that the “policies” can be followed.

Claims by disabled members that AAA/ACSC leaves disabled members stranded are not isolated incidents. As far back as 2005, a wheelchair user claimed she was left stranded in her car for 6 hours, after breaking down because of ACSC’s discriminatory policies. In 2013 another disabled member claimed he also faced the same discriminatory policies and was left stranded after breaking down. The 2013 lawsuit was settled without ACSC agreeing to any changes to its policies, or any new resources to provide equal benefits for disabled members when they require emergency roadside services.

After Ms. Rudder filed two lawsuits for separate incidents, another lawsuit claiming another two incidents was filed, raising the same claims of discrimination during emergency roadside calls.

The primary means of enforcing the ADA is through private lawsuits. This time, Ms. Rudder will not agree to a quick and cheap settlement that allows AAA/ACSC to continue the “friends and family” plan forcing disabled members to find their own way home.

For more information, please call Patricia Barbosa at (949)370-9942 or email pbarbosa at barbosagrp.com

Federal Judge Issues PERMANENT Injunction
April 22, 2014

Federal judge orders permanent injunction to stop discrimination against disabled borrowers at NuVision Credit Union and orders payment of $160,000 to disabled vet denied a loan because he was blind.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., April 22, 2014 – Following a jury verdict, Central District Court Judge Margaret Morrow issued a permanent injunction against Huntington Beach-based NuVision Credit Union for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Unruh Act for discrimination against a blind credit union member, who was denied a loan because he did not have a valid driver’s license. The Court issued the injunction ordering NuVision to modify discriminatory policies and provide ADA training and written policies concerning its loan policies to ensure that NuVision complies with its obligations under the ADA and Unruh Act. The injunction against NuVision is immediate and is permanent “as long as the ADA and/or Unruh Act remain in effect.”

“Judge Morrow also ordered payment of a jury award of $160,000 damages, which includes punitive damages based on a finding of intentional discrimination,” explained civil rights attorney Patricia Barbosa. “This injunction is unique in that it is immediate and permanent,” Barbosa continued. The injunction and award of damages should act as an example for other businesses that fail to modify policies which discriminate against disabled persons. NuVision may have felt that Mr. Acosta should not be given a loan without a driver’s license, but this policy had no rational basis for excluding blind persons from seeking loans. To the fact that they maintained their discriminatory policies, even when told of the resulting discrimination, is why the jury awarded punitive damages against NuVision.

Civil rights attorney Patricia Barbosa, the founder of Barbosa Group, who has more than 25 years of experience enforcing civil rights stated “The Court’s issuance of a permanent and immediate injunction to stop discrimination is encouraging at a time when the press and businesses try to paint all plaintiffs as frauds and fakes”. "Full and equal justice means just that, equality of participation and opportunity. Let’s hope businesses take a close look at policies and do the right thing.”

For more information, please call Patricia Barbosa at (949)370-9942 or email pbarbosa at barbosagrp.com