536 U.S. 181 (2002), 01-682, Barnes v. Gorman

Docket Nº:No. 01-682
Citation:536 U.S. 181, 122 S.Ct. 2097, 153 L.Ed.2d 230, 70 U.S.L.W. 4539, 70 U.S.L.W. 4548
Party Name:BARNES, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS OF KANSAS CITY MISSOURI, ET AL. v. JEFFREY GORMAN
Case Date:June 17, 2002
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 181

536 U.S. 181 (2002)

122 S.Ct. 2097, 153 L.Ed.2d 230, 70 U.S.L.W. 4539, 70 U.S.L.W. 4548

BARNES, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS OF KANSAS CITY MISSOURI, ET AL.

v.

JEFFREY GORMAN

No. 01-682

United States Supreme Court

June 17, 2002

        Argued April 23, 2002

        CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

        Syllabus

Respondent, a paraplegic, suffered serious injuries that left him unable to work full time when, after arrest, he was transported to a Kansas City police station in a van that was not equipped to accommodate the disabled. He sued petitioner police officials and officers for discriminating against him on the basis of his disability, in violation of §202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, by failing to maintain appropriate policies for the arrest and transportation of persons with spinal cord injuries. A jury awarded him compensatory and punitive damages, but the District Court vacated as to punitive damages, holding that they are unavailable in private suits brought under §202 of the ADA and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In reversing, the Eighth Circuit found punitive damages available under the "general rule" of Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, 503 U.S. 60, 70-71, that "absent clear direction to the contrary by Congress, the federal courts have the power to award any appropriate relief" for violation of a federal right.

        Held:

         Punitive damages may not be awarded in private suits brought under §202 of the ADA and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These sections are enforceable through private causes of action, whose remedies are coextensive with those available in a private action under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See §203 of the ADA and §505(a)(2) of the Rehabilitation Act. Title VI invokes Congress's Spending Clause power to place conditions on the grant of federal funds. This Court has regularly applied a contract-law analogy in defining the scope of conduct for which funding recipients may be held liable in money damages, and in finding a damages remedy available, in private suits under Spending Clause legislation. The same analogy applies in determining the scope of damages remedies. A remedy is appropriate relief only if the recipient is on notice that, by accepting federal funding, it exposes itself to such liability. A funding recipient is generally on notice that it is subject not only to those remedies explicitly provided in the relevant legislation but also to those traditionally available in breach of contract suits. Title VI mentions no remedies; and punitive damages are

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generally not available for breach of contract. Nor could it be said that Title VI funding recipients have, merely by accepting funds, implicitly consented to a remedy which is not normally available for contract actions, and the indeterminate magnitude of which could produce liability exceeding the level of federal funding. Because punitive damages may not be awarded in private suits under Title VI, it follows that they may not be awarded in suits under §202 of the ADA and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Pp. 184-190.

257 F.3d 738, reversed.

        SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, SOUTER, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. SOUTER, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which GINSBURG and BREYER, JJ., joined, post, p. 191.

        Lawrence S. Robbins argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Roy T. Englert, Jr., Alan E. Untereiner, Arnon D. Siegel, and Dale H. Close.

         Gregory G. Garre argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Olson, Assistant Attorneys General Boyd and McCallum, Deputy Solicitor General Clement, Jessica Dunsay Silver, and Gregory B. Friel.

         Scott L. Nelson argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Brian Wolfman, John M. Simpson, and Connie Knight Sieracki. [*]

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        JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

        We must decide whether punitive damages may be awarded in a private cause of action brought under §202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 104 Stat. 337, 42 U.S.C. §12132 (1994 ed.), and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 394, 29 U.S.C. §794(a).

        I

        Respondent Jeffrey Gorman, a paraplegic, is confined to a wheelchair and lacks voluntary control over his lower torso, including his bladder, forcing him to wear a catheter attached to a urine bag around his waist. In May 1992, he was arrested for trespass after fighting with a bouncer at a Kansas City, Missouri, nightclub. While waiting for a police van to transport him to the station, he was denied permission to use a restroom to empty his urine bag. When the van arrived, it was not equipped to receive respondent's wheelchair. Over respondent's objection, the officers removed him from his wheelchair and used a seatbelt and his own belt to strap him to a narrow bench in the rear of the van. During the ride to the police station, respondent released his seatbelt, fearing it placed excessive pressure on his urine bag. Eventually, the other belt came loose and respondent fell to the floor, rupturing his urine bag and injuring his shoulder and back. The driver, the only officer in the van, finding it impossible to lift respondent, fastened him to a support for the remainder of the trip. Upon arriving

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at the station, respondent was booked, processed, and released; later he was convicted of misdemeanor trespass. After these events, respondent suffered serious medical problems—including a bladder infection, serious lower back pain, and uncontrollable spasms in his paralyzed areas—that left him unable to work full time.

        Respondent brought suit against petitioners—members of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, the chief of police, and the officer who drove the van—in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The suit claimed petitioners had discriminated against respondent on the basis of his disability, in violation of §202 of the ADA and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act, by failing to maintain appropriate policies for the arrest and transportation of persons with spinal cord injuries.

        A jury found petitioners liable and awarded over $1 million in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages. The District Court vacated the punitive damages award, holding that punitive damages are unavailable in suits under §202 of the ADA and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed, relying on this Court's decision in Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, 503 U.S. 60, 70-71 (1992), which stated the" general rule "that" absent clear direction to the contrary by Congress, the federal courts have the power to award any appropriate relief in a cognizable cause of action brought pursuant to a federal statute." Punitive damages are appropriate relief, the Eighth Circuit held, because they are" an integral part of the common law tradition and the judicial arsenal," 257 F.3d 738, 745 (2001), and Congress did nothing to disturb this tradition in enacting or amending the relevant statutes, id., at 747. We granted certiorari. 534 U.S. 1103 (2002).

        II

        Section 202 of the ADA prohibits discrimination against the disabled by public entities; §504 of the Rehabilitation...

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