Traub Lieberman Attorneys Michael K. Kiernan and Bradley T. Guldalian Obtain Summary Judgement for Private Telecommunications Services Provider

Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP partner Michael K. Kiernan and senior trial counsel Bradley T. Guldalian recently obtained summary judgement in a discrimination case in which the Plaintiff, a deaf inmate confined in a county jail, alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) Title II 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 29 U.S.C. § 794. 

In Downing v. Osceola Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs, No: 6:16-cv-872-Orl-40KRS, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189673 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 16, 2017), the Plaintiff, a deaf individual, was arrested on March 18, 2012, by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office for simple battery and taken to jail. At the jail, the Plaintiff requested access to a deaf interpreter or the use of a videophone so he could contact someone to bond him out of jail and to advise his employer why he would not be at work the following day. The jail failed to provide the Plaintiff with an interpreter or a videophone. On March 22, 2012, four (4) days after his confinement, the Plaintiff was taken to use the jail’s Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (“TDD machine”) which had been installed at the jail by Traub Lieberman’s client, who had a contract with Osceola County to maintain and operate TDD machines at the jail. The Plaintiff attempted to use two separate TDD machines but both proved to be inoperable. Because he was not given a deaf interpreter, access to a videophone or access to an operable TDD machine, the Plaintiff was unable to bond out of jail and remained confined for eighteen (18) days until April 5, 2012. When he was released, the Plaintiff learned he had been fired from his $70,000 a year job as a driver for a national delivery company. Plaintiff sued Osceola County for discrimination in violation of Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act seeking a seven figure recovery. Osceola County, in turn, sued Traub Lieberman’s client for indemnification and breach of contract, claiming it had a duty to provide a working TDD machine to Osceola County and that its failure to do so resulted in Plaintiff’s eighteen (18) day confinement, the loss of his job, and the damages for which he sought compensation. After the close of discovery, attorneys Kiernan and Guldalian moved for summary judgment, asserting Osceola County’s state law indemnification and breach of contract claims were preempted by federal law. After noting that the issue of whether the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act preempted state law claims for indemnification and breach of contract was a “novel issue” that had yet to be decided by the Eleventh Circuit, the district court agreed with Traub Lieberman’s argument, granted their motion for summary judgment, and dismissed the client from the case with prejudice. In so holding, the court reasoned that both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act would be undercut by allowing Osceola County to shield itself from liability through a state law indemnification or breach of contract claim.