LA Settles Largest Disability-Access Case Ever

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A federal judge approved a $1.4 billion settlement in which Los Angeles agrees to fix broken sidewalks and crosswalks to make them accessible to disabled people — the class attorney called it the largest disability access settlement in history.
     U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall also awarded $11.7 million in legal fees and costs to the class attorneys, resolving the class action brought by lead plaintiff Mark Willits in 2010. Marshall signed both orders on Aug. 25.
     Los Angeles agreed to spend $1.37 billion over the next three decades to make its pedestrian facilities accessible. City Councilman Joe Buscaino called the settlement a good deal for everyone in Los Angeles, disabled or not.
     “There are no losers here,” he said.
     Willits claimed that the city’s crumbling sidewalks and other barriers prevented people in wheelchairs or with other impairments from using public sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks and other walkways, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
     Among other things, the city will install missing curb ramps, fix curb ramps that are too steep or narrow, and repair broken sidewalks and crosswalks.
     The $1.37 billion will be spent at about $31 million per year for the first five years — about five times as much as the city typically spends on access improvements.
     The annual investment will eventually increase to more than $63 million.
     Guy Wallace, lead counsel for the class, called it the largest disability access class action settlement in U.S. history.
     “By making the city’s sidewalks and crosswalks accessible, this settlement will make it much easier for persons with mobility disabilities to get to and use government facilities, to find or get to jobs and workplaces, to go shopping, to go to the doctor, to participate in community life, and to be with their friends and families,” Wallace said.
     Under the settlement, people with disabilities can request improvements in their own neighborhoods, such as curb ramp installations or tree root repairs.
     City Attorney Mike Feuer said the settlement shows L.A.’s “ironclad long-term commitment” to repair its broken sidewalks.
     “It’s so much better to prevent residents from being injured in the first place than to react after the fact. This settlement directs taxpayer dollars to where they belong: solving one of our city’s most longstanding problems,” Feuer said.
     The settlement called for the city to pay $13.3 million to the 24 attorneys who litigated the case, but Marshall reduced the award to $10.2 million. She also approved $1.5 million in attorneys’ costs.

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