A federal appeals court yesterday upheld an agreement between Boston and disability advocates to install or repair 15,000 handicap ramps at city intersections, rejecting arguments from a Florida man that the proposal wasn't fair to out of towners and should be thrown out.
Boston and four specific people with mobility issues agreed last year to settle a class-action suit over the state of city intersections for people who use wheelchairs or have other issues through a ten-year ramp construction and repair program. A federal judge would oversee the work to ensure Boston is keeping its word to make the city easier to navigate. The city also agreed to pay $674,000 for the work of the four people's attorneys.
William Norkunas, a Fort Lauderdale, FL man who uses a wheelchair and who makes occasional trips to Boston, however, sought to legally intercede in the case. In a legal filing, he cited the fact that the city would have ten years, rather than three, to upgrade all the ramps and that while the case was brought as a class action on behalf of all people with mobility issues, neither he nor any other visitors to Boston were ever consulted and would now be precluded from bringing their own ramp suits.
Despite purporting to be a nationwide class action; class counsel failed to give proper notice to disabled individuals throughout the nation. For example, no notice was given to Philadelphians who may want to attend a 76ers/Celtics game, nor to disabled individuals who may not reside in but regularly visit the Boston area.
The judge handling the case in US District Court in Boston, Richard Stearns, ruled against Norkunas, in part because he does not live here. He appealed. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, ruled it saw no reason to overturn the settlement.