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Class Action Disability Discrimination Suit Certified Against Cook County Jail in Illinois

Class Action Disability Discrimination Suit Certified Against Cook County Jail in Illinois

On March 26, 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Elaine E. Bucklo certified a class action lawsuit against the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDC) alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act (RA).

Derrick Phipps, Kevin House, Kenneth Courtney and James Grant, all paraplegic or partially handicapped individuals, filed suit against Cook County, Illinois and the Sheriff of Cook County, alleging violations of the ADA and RA. According to their complaint, the CCDC discriminated against them by failing to provide adequate beds, showers and toilets for wheelchair-bound pretrial detainees between 2006 and 2007.

Phipps and the other plaintiffs alleged they had suffered bed sores, rashes and other physical injuries caused from falls while trying to use non-handicapped accessible facilities, as well as emotional distress.

The plaintiffs moved to certify a class against CCDC comprised of all current and former wheelchair-bound prisoners subjected to discrimination under the ADA and RA after July 11, 2005. Cook County opposed the motion, arguing that the requirements for class certification – numerosity, commonality, typicality, adequacy of representation, predominance and superiority – were not present. The court disagreed.

Addressing numerosity, the court found the plaintiffs’ estimate that 50 or more wheelchair-bound prisoners had been housed at CCDC since 2005 was reasonable and sufficient to satisfy the numerosity requirement. Turning to commonality and typicality, the court rejected the County’s attempts to distinguish between the plaintiffs’ claims based on the fact that some of the plaintiffs were housed in different units. According to the court, the focus of commonality is whether the plaintiffs had alleged a common discriminatory practice, which they had done. Likewise, the court found that slight differences in the conditions of the plaintiffs’ confinement did not affect typicality.

As for the remaining requirements, the court concluded that the proposed class was adequately represented by any of the named plaintiffs, and that the class claims would both predominate and be superior to resolution of the plaintiffs’ claims on an individual basis.

Accordingly, the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. This case is ongoing and in the discovery stage. See: Phipps v. Sheriff of Cook County, 249 F.R.D. 298 (N.D. Ill. 2008).

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Related legal case

Phipps v. Sheriff of Cook County