Arent Fox Secures Class Certification in Precedent-Setting ADA Ruling

Washington, DC — On March 29, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a precedent-setting decision that granted class certification to thousands of Washington, DC residents with disabilities and denied for the fourth time an attempt by the District of Columbia to dismiss the case.

The residents, represented pro bono by Arent Fox LLP, are asking the District in Thorpe et al. v. District of Columbia to comply with a long-standing federal law that allows people with disabilities to live at home and to end the unnecessary institutionalization of thousands of patients in nursing facilities who remain segregated and isolated from their families and friends. 

In granting the class certification, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle appointed Complex Litigation associate Brian D. Schneider, partner Barbara S. Wahl, and associate Alison Lima Andersen as class counsel, along with co-counsel from AARP Foundation Litigation and University Legal Services.

In Thorpe, the District argued that the US Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes radically changed the landscape for class certification, and that the District Court should follow other courts that have taken a far more skeptical view of class certification motions, particularly in Americans with Disabilities Act actions. But Judge Huvelle disagreed and delivered an opinion that will provide relief to individuals with disabilities who are harmed by systemic discrimination in violation of the ADA.

The residents are seeking to obtain systemic changes that will bring the District into compliance with the ADA and provide Medicaid services to disabled people in a way that connects members with community-based supports and long-term care services. They note that nearly 15 years ago in Olmstead v. L.C., the US Supreme Court ruled that state and local governments must provide services to people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

In her decision, Judge Huvelle highlighted that the nine individually-named plaintiffs have collectively spent 41 years in nursing facilities without being told of options that could move them to home services.

Arent Fox’s Complex Litigation group has been recognized by Chambers USA for its “streamlined” approach that delivers “quality” results. With more than 125 litigators, the practice boasts a deep bench and international reach while having extensive experience in high-stakes litigation before federal and state courts and regulatory agencies. The group is especially proficient at managing parallel litigation in multiple jurisdictions and represents clients in matters that include intellectual property, health care, life sciences, trade, automotive, insurance and human rights abuses.

About Arent Fox
Founded in 1942, Arent Fox is internationally recognized in core practice areas where business and the law intersect. With more than 400 lawyers, the firm provides strategic legal counsel and multidisciplinary solutions to a global roster of corporations, governments, and trade associations. The firm has offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.


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