High Court Allows ADA Suit Against TN

May 17, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The U.S. Supreme Court has given a paraplegic the right to sue Tennessee under the federal American With Disability Act (ADA).

>By a 5-4 vote, the nation’s highest court agreed with George Lane that ADA provides private citizens the right to seek money in court if a state fails to live up to the law’s requirements.   The state of Tennessee had maintained Lane’s Constitutional rights were not infringed upon because he had no right to take the state to court, according to a Reuters report.

>The case began when Lane attempted to sue the state of Tennessee for what he claimed was humiliating treatment that violated the ADA, this after Lane crawled up a courthouse’s steps once.   Tennessee did not dispute that the courthouse lacked an elevator, or that the state has a duty to make its services available to all. The state argued, however, that Lane’s Constitutional rights were not violated and that he had no right to take the state to court.

>As part of the state’s argument, Tennessee said Congress went too far in writing the ADA, because the Constitution says a state government cannot be sued in federal court without its consent.   However, the Supreme Court, speaking to the disputed Title II of the ADA did not see any Constitutional violations of states’ rights.  

“It is not difficult to perceive the harm that Title II is designed to address,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion. Congress enacted Title II against a backdrop of pervasive unequal treatment in the administration of state services and programs, including systematic deprivations of fundamental rights.”