Tuesday, November 20, 2007

SDNY Holds that Former Patients Lack Standing to Assert ADA Claim against Treatment Facility

Per Romano v. SLS Residential Inc., --- F.R.D. ----, 2007 WL 3145076 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 10, 2007):

“Title III of the ADA proscribes discrimination against the disabled in public accommodations.” Powell v. Nat'l Bd. of Med. Exam'rs, 364 F.3d 79, 85 (2d Cir.2004). “A private individual may only obtain injunctive relief for violations of a right granted under Title III; he cannot recover damages.” Id. at 86. Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' ADA claim, as well as their request for other injunctive relief, on the grounds that plaintiffs lack standing to seek injunctive relief. This Court agrees.

In order to establish standing, “first, the plaintiff must establish that he suffered an injury in fact, which is defined as an invasion of a legally-protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of. Finally, a plaintiff must show that it is likely that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

“In order to establish an injury in fact necessary to a claim for injunctive relief, the moving party must demonstrate that a defendant's conduct is causing irreparable harm. This requirement cannot be met absent a showing of a real or immediate threat that the plaintiff will be wronged again.” “While past wrongs consist of evidence bearing on whether there is a real and immediate threat of repeated injury, past exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief ... if unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects.”

. . .

Here, plaintiffs were no longer patients at the facility at the time that they filed their complaint. In addition, plaintiffs reside in New Jersey, while the facility in question is in Putnam County. Moreover, plaintiffs have not alleged that they intend to use the facility again, or that they would be likely to use the facility but for the alleged wrongful conduct. Any injury plaintiffs allege, therefore, is speculative.

Plaintiffs argue that a ruling the plaintiffs lack standing would allow defendants to expel a plaintiff from their facility thereby mooting their claim and eliminating standing. This argument fails. In such a case, the question before the Court is the mootness of plaintiffs' claims, not standing, and the question before the court would be whether the harm alleged is capable of repetition yet evading review. In this case, plaintiffs do not have standing to seek an injunction in the first instance because any potential harm to them is entirely speculative.

Accordingly, plaintiffs lack standing to seek injunctive relief, and any claims for injunctive relief are dismissed. In addition, because only injunctive relief is available for plaintiffs' Title III ADA claims, these claims are dismissed.


At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Putnam said...

One interesting and very important aspect of this decision is that this seems to be the first reported decision holding that the mentally ill may pursue a claim for violation of civil rights based upon the allegation that the defendants intentionally targeted the mentally ill for mistreatment. The court specifically upheld the claim for civil rights violations under New York civil rights statutes, and also stated that although the plaintiffs do not have standing for injunctive relief under the ADA, they have stated a claim of discrimination under the ADA. The court also certified the case a class action. The allegations that supported the plaintiffs' claims were that the defendants made false and deceptive statements to a vulnerable population of mentally ill persons to induce them to come to their facility, where they paid upwards of $900 a day for treatment that was abusive. The plaintiffs supported these accusations by citing reports by the New York State Office of Mental Health fining the defendants over $100,000 for violations of patient rights.

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