Court Decisions Brief
A project of the Southeast ADA Center and Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University

Smith v. TransCor America

Western Disrict Court of Kentucky
No. 5:07CV-P96-R, 2007 WL 2572424
September 5, 2007

Facts of the Case

Mr. Jake Dean Smith is an incarcerated man who describes himself as handicapped because his left leg was amputated and his right knee is "very weak." TransCor America was responsible for transporting Mr. Smith between jails but allegedly did not operate an accessible bus. He was kept on the bus for up to three days on two different occasions without rest. Furthermore, Mr. Smith alleged a bus operator took some of his belongings before he entered the bus and threw them away. During the trip between jails, Mr. Smith stayed at Christian County Jail (KY), which allegedly also was not accessible. While there, Mr. Smith was unable to get around independently and relied on inmates to carry him to the bathroom, shower and to get his meals. At one point, he hurt himself while trying to enter a shower.

Mr. Smith filed suit pro se (i.e., without an attorney) under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging TransCor America and the Christian County Jail failed to accommodate his disability. Mr. Smith also asserted claims for cruel and unusual punishment and deprivation of property under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. While Christian County Jail is a public entity subject to Title II, TransCor America is a limited liability company (according to their website), which more commonly would be a public accommodation subject to Title III. However, the court treated TransCor America as an instrumentality of the state and Title II entity.

Issues of the Case

  1. Whether Mr. Smith has a claim against TransCor America and the Christian County Jail for failing to accommodate his disability under the ADA.
  2. Whether Mr. Smith has a claim against Christian County for cruel and unusual punishment.
  3. Whether Mr. Smith has a claim against TransCor America for deprivation of property.

Arguments & Analysis

1. ADA Title II prohibits public entities from discriminating against individuals who have a disability "in operation of services, programs, or activities."

State and local prisons and jails are public entities subject to Title II of the ADA. Mr. Smith asserts the TransCor America and Christian County failed to accommodate his disability in providing their services.

2. The Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause protects pretrial detainees like Mr. Smith from cruel and unusual punishment.

Accordingly, the basic needs of prisoners, including hygiene, are protected from intentional indifference on the part of prison officials. Mr. Smith further claims that TransCor America intentionally deprived him of his property without due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when his possessions were taken from him and thrown away.

Rulings

The court held that Mr. Smith can proceed against TransCor America and the Christian County Jail for his ADA claims and may proceed against Christian County for cruel and unusual punishment. The court did not permit his deprivation of property claim to continue because he failed to show that TransCor America refused to remedy this loss of property.

Disclaimer:

These materials do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in any individual case. Please consult an attorney licensed in your state for legal advice and/or representation. These materials were prepared by the legal research staff of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University in partnership with the Southeast ADA Center to highlight legal and policy developments relevant to civil rights protections and the impact of court decisions in the Southeast Region under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These materials are based on federal disability rights laws and court decisions in effect at the time of publication. Federal and state disability rights law can change at any time.  In addition, state and local laws and regulations may provide different or additional protections. Materials are intended solely as informal guidance, and are neither a determination of your legal rights nor responsibilities under the ADA or other federal, state, and local laws, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA. The accuracy of any information contained herein is not warranted. Any links to external websites are provided as a courtesy and are not intended to nor do they constitute an endorsement of the linked materials.

Southeast ADA Center

Web: adasoutheast.org
Toll-Free: 1-800-949-4232 | Phone: 404-541-9001
Email: adasoutheast@law.syr.edu

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