Frank Irvin, Steven Kruppner, Deputy Superintendent for
Administration, and Donald R. Wolff, Deputy Superintendent for
Two claims were ultimately presented to the jury. First,
plaintiff complained that defendants Irvin, Wolff and Kruppner
were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical
needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from
cruel and unusual punishment, by failing to train and supervise
their subordinates, and by failing to respond adequately to
plaintiff's complaints. Second, plaintiff complained that
defendant State of New York violated plaintiff's rights under the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq., by
denying him access to programs and services available to
non-disabled inmates, by subjecting him to discrimination by
virtue of his disability, by failing to provide him with his
wheelchair for sustained periods of time, and by failing to
provide him with a wheelchair accessible environment.
The trial took place from November 9, 1998, through November
18, 1998. On November 18, 1998, the jury returned a verdict in
the amount $150,000 for the plaintiff (See Item 77, 80). The
jury found an Eighth Amendment violation against defendants Irvin
and Kruppner, but not against defendant Donald Wolff (Item 77, at
1). Without awarding compensatory or nominal damages, the jury
awarded plaintiff punitive damages against defendant Irvin in the
amount of $15,000, and $10,000 in punitive damages against
defendant Kruppner (Item 77, at 3-4). On the ADA claim, the jury
awarded plaintiff $125,000 in compensatory damages against the
State of New York (Item 77, at 4-5).
Judgement was entered in favor of the plaintiff on November 30,
1998 (Item 82). On December 9, 1998, defendants filed a motion
seeking the following relief: (1) dismissal of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) claim for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction; (2) granting judgment as a matter of law on the
ground that there is insufficient proof to support the jury's
findings; (3) setting aside the jury verdict rendered against the
defendants in the amount of $0.00 in compensatory damages, $0.00
in nominal damages, and (cumulatively) $25,000 in punitive
damages against defendants Irvin and Kruppner; (4) setting aside
the jury verdict against defendant State of New York; and, (5) in
the alternative, granting remittitur relative to the amount of
damages found by the jury (Item 83).
I. Sovereign Immunity and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Defendants argue that the ADA does not abrogate a state's
sovereign immunity because it was not enacted pursuant to a valid
exercise of congressional authority under section five of the
Fourteenth Amendment (Item 84, at 3). In support of this
argument, defendants recognize that Congress possessed the power
to enact the ADA, but argue that it lacked the authority to
abrogate a state's sovereign immunity under the Eleventh
Amendment (Item 84, at 8).
The ADA, "[l]ike the other antidiscrimination statutes, . . .
is an exercise of Congress' power under section 5 of the
Fourteenth Amendment." Crawford v. Indiana Dept. of
Corrections, 115 F.3d 481, 487 (7th Cir. 1997); Muller v.
Costello, 997 F. Supp. 299, 304 (N.D.N.Y. 1998); see also Cooper
v. New York State Office of Mental Health, 162 F.3d 770, 777 (2d
Cir. 1998) (holding ADEA enacted pursuant to section five of the
Fourteenth Amendment), petition for cert. filed, 67 USLW 3614
A two-part test is used to determine whether Congress
effectively abrogated the States' sovereign immunity under the
Eleventh Amendment. First, it is necessary to determine "whether
Congress has unequivocally expressed its intent to abrogate the
immunity." Seminole Tribe
of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 55, 116 S.Ct. 1114, 134
L.Ed.2d 252 (1996) (quoting Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 68,
106 S.Ct. 423, 88 L.Ed.2d 371 (1985)) (internal punctuation
omitted). Second, it is necessary to determine "whether Congress
has acted pursuant to a valid exercise of power." Id.
"Congress' intent to abrogate the State's immunity from suit
must come from a clear legislative statement." Id. (quoting
Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775, 786, 111
S.Ct. 2578, 115 L.Ed.2d 686 (1991)) (internal punctuation
omitted). Congress clearly intended to abrogate state sovereign
immunity under the ADA. See 42 U.S.C. § 12202; Kimel v. State
Bd. of Regents, 139 F.3d 1426, 1433 (11th Cir. 1998), cert.
granted, ___ U.S. ___, 119 S.Ct. 901, 142 L.Ed.2d 901 (1999);
Coolbaugh v. State of Louisiana, 136 F.3d 430, 433 (5th Cir.
1998), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 119 S.Ct. 58, 142 L.Ed.2d 45
(1998); Clark v.. State of California, 123 F.3d 1267, 1269 (9th
Cir. 1997); cert. denied by, Wilson v. Armstrong, ___ U.S. ___,
118 S.Ct. 2340, 141 L.Ed.2d 711 (1998); Crawford, 115 F.3d at
487; see also Galusha v. New York State Dep't of Env. Cons.,
27 F. Supp.2d 117, 124 (N.D.N.Y. 1998); Muller, 997 F. Supp. at 304.
As stated in the legislative history, the purpose of the ADA is,
in part, "to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate
to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities and
to bring persons with disabilities into the economic and social
mainstream of American life." H.R.REP. No. 101-485(ll), at 22
(1990); reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. 303, 304; see
42 U.S.C. § 12101. In passing the Act, Congress was interested in
"eliminating a form of discrimination that [was] considered
unfair and even odious." Crawford, 115 F.3d at 486;
Coolbaugh, 136 F.3d at 438; Clark, 123 F.3d at 1270.
Defendants correctly point out that a physical or mental
disability is not a suspect classification. Suffolk Parents of
Handicapped Adults v. Wingate, 101 F.3d 818, 824 n. 4 (2d Cir.
1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1239, 117 S.Ct. 1843, 137 L.Ed.2d
1047 (1997); Disabled American Veterans v. United States Dep't
of Veterans Affairs, 962 F.2d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1992). This
raises the question of whether abrogation occurred pursuant to a
valid exercise of Congressional power. See Seminole Tribe of
Florida, 517 U.S. at 55, 116 S.Ct. 1114. Congress is empowered
to enact legislation protecting against discrimination through
the equal protection clause. Cleburne v. Cleburne Living
Center, 473 U.S. 432, 439, 105 S.Ct. 3249, 87 L.Ed.2d 313
(1985); Clark, 123 F.3d at 1270; See Goshtasby v. Board of
Trustees, 141 F.3d 761, 770 (7th Cir. 1998); Cooper, 162 F.3d
at 777 (holding that "Congress has the power to prohibit
arbitrary age-based discrimination even though age is not a
suspect classification and no fundamental right is involved.").
As the Goshtasby panel points out, "[t]he Supreme Court's equal
protection jurisprudence is not confined to traditional suspect
or quasi-suspect classifications." 141 F.3d at 771 (citing Mills
v. State of Maine, 118 F.3d 37, 46 (1st Cir. 1997)). Simply put,
the Equal Protection Clause allows Congress to legislate against
intentional and arbitrary discrimination within the state. Id.
(quoting Sunday Lake Iron Co. v. Wakefield Township,
247 U.S. 350, 352, 38 S.Ct. 495, 62 L.Ed. 1154 (1918)).
Defendants disagree with this legal principle (See Item 84,
at 6-13). Instead, defendants want this court to adopt a minority
position, held by several courts, that Congress did not
effectively abrogate the States' sovereign immunity when it
enacted the ADA. See Brown v. North Carolina Div. of Motor
Vehicles, 166 F.3d 698 (4th Cir. 1999); Kilcullen v. New York
State Dep't. of Transp., 33 F. Supp.2d 133 (N.D.N.Y. 1999);
Garrett v. Board of Trustees, 989 F. Supp. 1409 (N.D.Ala. 1998);
Nihiser v. Ohio Envtl. Protection Agency, 979 F. Supp. 1168
According to defendants, the Supreme Court's holding in City
of Boerne v. Flores
prohibited Congress from enacting the ADA because it confers
rights far more extensive than those provided by the Fourteenth
Amendment. 521 U.S. 507, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997).
In City of Boerne, the Court held that Congress has the "power
`to enforce,' not the power to determine what constitutes a
constitutional violation." Id. at 519, 117 S.Ct. at 2164, 138
L.Ed.2d at 638. This is because section five of the Fourteenth
Amendment allows Congress to correct or prevent constitutional
violations. Id. at 522-23, 117 S.Ct. at 2166, 138 L.Ed.2d at
641-42. The appropriateness of any remedial legislation is to be
judged within the context "of the evil presented." Id. at 529,
117 S.Ct. at 2169, 138 L.Ed.2d at 645 (citing South Carolina v.
Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 308, 86 S.Ct. 803, 15 L.Ed.2d 769
In order to adjudge the appropriateness of the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ("RFRA"), the Court in City of
Boerne compared the types of harm presented to Congress when
considering passage of RFRA and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Id. at 529-30, 117 S.Ct. at 2169-70, 138 L.Ed.2d at 645-46.
RFRA's legislative record, according to City of Boerne, showed
no recent examples of religious bigotry occurring in the 40 years
prior to the statute's passage. Id. at 529, 117 S.Ct. at 2169,
138 L.Ed.2d at 645. Based on this record, the Court concluded
that "RFRA cannot be considered remedial, preventative
legislation. . . . RFRA is so out of proportion to a supposed
remedial or preventative object that it cannot be understood as
responsive to, or designed to prevent, unconstitutional behavior.
It appears, instead, to attempt a substantive change in
constitutional protections." Id. at 529, 117 S.Ct. at 2169, 138
L.Ed.2d at 646.
In contrast to RFRA, the ADA's legislative history is replete
with examples of deliberate, blatant, and even indifferent
instances of discrimination against the disabled. See H.REP.
No. 101-485(LL), at 28-43. There was even recognition by Congress
that discrimination against the disabled results from "the
construction of transportation, architectural, and communication
barriers or the adoption or application of standards, criteria,
practices or procedures that are based on thoughtlessness or
indifference — that discrimination resulting from benign
neglect." Id. at 29. Congress is clearly granted the authority
to correct such discrimination through the Equal Protection
Clause. City of Boerne, 521 U.S. at 507, 117 S.Ct. at 2157, 138
L.Ed.2d at 637 (quoting Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. 641,
651, 86 S.Ct. 1717, 16 L.Ed.2d 828 (1966)); Goshtasby, 141 F.3d
at 770; Crawford, 115 F.3d at 487.
Accordingly, defendants' motion to dismiss the ADA claim is
II. Judgment as a Matter of Law.
Defendants also move for judgment as a matter of law pursuant
to Rule 50(b) (See Item 84, at 13-15). According to Rule 50:
If during a trial by jury a party has been fully
heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient
evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for
that party on that issue, the court may determine the
issue against that party and may grant a motion for
judgment as a matter of law against that party with
respect to a claim or defense that cannot under the
controlling law be maintained or defeated without a
favorable finding on that issue.
FED.R.CIV.P. 50(a)(1). A motion for judgment as a matter of law
may be renewed within ten days after an entry of judgment. Id.