The opinion of the court was delivered by: GERARD L. GOETTEL
Named plaintiffs Gerry Trautz and Floyd Rhein, former residents of defendant Weisman's Rockland Manor ("the Manor"), an adult care facility located in Spring Valley, New York, and Disability Advocates, Inc. ("DAI") brought this cause of action to challenge allegedly filthy dangerous, and degrading conditions at the Manor. On behalf of themselves and as class representatives, Trautz and Rhein alleged claims under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961. They also alleged civil rights claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3), and several state law claims.
In December of 1993, Trautz and Rhein brought this motion for class certification pursuant to F. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(1), (b)(2), and (b)(3). Defendants, Leon Weisman, Mollie Weisman, Eugene Weisman, Kones Paramananthan, the Manor, and Weisman's Rest Hotel (which owns the property leased to the Manor) opposed certification. After oral argument, we gave the plaintiffs sixty days in order to find additional class representatives. We have been informed that during that period, Mr. Rhein passed away, and plaintiffs were unable to find any new class representatives.
While it is unclear at this juncture whether Rhein's estate will be substituted as a plaintiff in this action, we can no longer consider him as a class representative because any claim he would have for injunctive relief is now moot. Further, even though Rhein has been deposed and his estate would be entitled to collect from any damage award obtained by the class, his death renders him incapable of satisfying the adequacy of representation requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(4). Therefore, we consider only Trautz as class representative for purposes of this motion.
Because we have already set forth the facts of this case at some length in a published decision in which we denied defendants' motion to dismiss Trautz v. Weisman, 819 F. Supp. 282 (1993),
we need not repeat them here.
Trautz seeks to represent a class composed of a) all residents who have lived at the Manor since January 23, 1986, who plaintiffs assert are entitled to compensatory treble and punitive damages, and b) all present and future residents, who plaintiffs assert are entitled to injunctive relief.
As a threshold matter, defendants argue that plaintiffs' motion should be denied because Trautz and DAI lack standing to bring this suit. This argument appears overbroad, as to Trautz because although he is no longer a Manor resident, he certainly has standing to bring a claim for damages. More properly, defendants' argument speaks solely to the issue of whether DAI and Trautz have standing to bring a claim for injunctive relief, and we proceed to address these questions.
In Rubenstein v. Benedictine Hosp., 790 F. Supp. 396, 409 (N.D.N.Y. 1992), the district court for the Northern District of New York held that, "given the broad remedial purposes of [PAMII]" as well as its supporting statutory language, DAI had standing to pursue a civil rights suit. The defendants in the case had argued that DAI's role in the litigation was that of an advocate rather than a party and that it could not have independant standing because it had not personally suffered "injury in fact."
The district court disagreed. It looked to the PAMII Act which provides:
(a) system established in a State . . . to protect and advocate the rights of mentally ill individuals shall -
(1) have the authority to -
(B) pursue administrative, legal, and other appropriate remedies to ensure the protection of individuals with mental illnesses who are receiving care or treatment in the State; and
(C) pursue administrative, legal, and other remedies on behalf of an individual who -
(i) was [an] individual with mental illness;
(ii) is a resident of the State
42 U.S.C. § 10805. While the Rubenstein court found that PAMII's legislative history shed no light on the issue of standing, it found that the statute clearly conferred upon a system, here the Commission, the right to pursue legal remedies for the protection of mentally ill individuals.
We agree with this interpretation for, if Congress merely intended for state systems to act as advocates on behalf of mentally individuals, it would not have included (a)(1)(B) in the statute in addition to (a)(1)(C). The Rubenstein court further reasoned that the right to pursue legal remedies also flowed ...