Disability Advocates, Inc. v. David A. Paterson and Others, 653 F.Supp.2d 184 (2009)

Petition brought by Disability Advocates, Inc. (DAI) claiming violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act’s integration mandate with regards to individuals in New York State’s adult care facilities; Denial of access to supportive housing; Services must be provided in most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of persons with disabilities; Disability-based discrimination; Fundamental alteration defense.

Date of the Ruling: 
Apr 6 2012
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Type of Forum: 

Disability Advocates, Inc. (DAI) brought a suit before the U.S. District Court (NY) asserting that New York State discriminated against individuals with disabilities in violation of the ADA’s integration mandate, which requires that individuals with mental illness residing in adult care facilities in New York receive services in the most integrated setting possible in order to increase interaction with the broader community. The Court found that New York State’s lack of integration discriminated against DAI’s constituents and that adult homes are institutions that segregate individuals with intellectual disabilities from the larger community. According to the Court, such homes foster helplessness and limit residents’ ability to interact with persons without disabilities. Adult care facilities are nursing homes designed for people who require constant care due to significant deficiencies in their ability to care for themselves in their daily lives.

Supportive housing or assisted living allows residents to live independently in the community while providing support only in certain necessary areas. Evidence in the case showed no material differences between New York’s adult home residents and supportive housing residents. This similarity demonstrated that adult home residents could function well in the supportive housing setting, so such supportive housing would both match their needs and provide them with greater integration into the community. The court also rejected the defendants’ contention that compliance with DAI’s requested injunction would constitute a fundamental alteration of the State’s service system. To support this finding, the court pointed first to the fact that the state had no other comprehensive and effective plan to enable adult home residents to receive services in a more integrated setting. Secondly, it judged that compliance with the injunction would not increase costs to the state and that any changes would not adversely affect other individuals with intellectual disabilities. In sum, the Court understood that adult home residents’ lack of access to supportive housing constituted discrimination.

Keywords: Disability Advocates, Inc. v. David A. Paterson and Others, 653 F.Supp.2d 184 (2009), Disability, Health, Housing, Right

Enforcement of the Decision and Outcomes: 

In response to the ruling, New York proposed a plan capping the number of new supported housing units at 1,000. DAI and the U.S. Department of Justice filed briefs citing the proposal as inadequate. On March 1, 2010, the court rejected the State’s proposal, instead ordering that New York develop at least an additional 1,500 additional units of supported housing per year for the next three years. However, New York appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Disability Advocates, Inc. v. Cuomo. On February 23, 2011, the court issued an order staying the March 2010 order. The United States Court of Appeals (Second Circuit) decided on April 6, 2012 to dismiss the action, as DAI lacked standing and the United States intervention occurred too late in the process. The Court of Appeals stated that it had concerns about the remedy sought, but it also stated that this litigation could continue “inasmuch as the United States [c]ould re-file the action and submit the same evidence at a subsequent trial”.

Significance of the Case: 

This District Court decision explicitly stated that the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling in L.C. and E.W. v. Olmstead. applies beyond the realm of psychiatric hospitalization. If it had not been vacated, the District Court decision in DAI would have offered adult home residents a potential avenue to leave the home and move towards more integration with the surrounding community. Further, this case was the first of several similar actions in Connecticut and Illinois.