Judge Says Laguna Honda Residents Can Sue City of San Francisco

For Immediate Release — July 14, 2001


  • Larisa Cummings; DREDF: (510) 644-2555 (can be reached August 28)
  • Kim Swain; Protection and Advocacy: (510) 430-8033 (can be reached August 28)

San Francisco, California — Judge Saundra Armstrong of the U.S. District Court has upheld the rights of several people with disabilities who live at Laguna Honda Hospital, and the Independent Living Center San Francisco, to pursue a lawsuit alleging that the City and County of San Francisco is violating their civil rights.

Attorney Eric Gelber of Protection and Advocacy said, “We are delighted that the residents of Laguna Honda will have their day in court to challenge San Francisco’s outdated and illegal policies.” DREDF Attorney Larisa Cummings added, “Maybe the city will wake up and realize that spending the bulk of its long term care dollars in a segregated institution is not what people with disabilities, including seniors, want or need.”

The original ten plaintiffs filed the class action lawsuit on July 13, 2000, seeking access to community-based long-term care services to avoid unnecessary institutionalization in nursing facilities. They alleged that San Francisco and several State agencies are violating federal statutes in failing to provide long-term care for individuals who would prefer to live at home in their communities rather than be institutionalized. The City and County and San Francisco filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but the judge denied that motion on August 16, 2001, insofar as the plaintiffs seek to have San Francisco make modifications to existing programs or services.

The lawsuit cites several federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead, which affirmed that institutionalizing individuals with disabilities, when home and community based care would meet their needs, constitutes a violation of the ADA. (Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999).

Plaintiffs allege that to end the discrimination against them and provide adequate community-based care, defendants must conduct adequate assessments, identify the long-term care needs of those they serve, and determine whether their needs can be met in an integrated, community-based setting.

Said Bruce Vignery, plaintiff co-counsel from AARP Foundation Litigation.

Older Americans are too often forced into nursing homes like Laguna Honda, AARP members and other older Americans, including those needing assistance with medical and personal care needs, want to remain in their own homes and communities, with appropriate supportive services.

Plaintiffs are represented by a coalition: Protection and Advocacy, Inc. in Oakland, California, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. in Berkeley, California, the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles, California, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C.; the Law Offices of Andrew Thomas Sinclair; Howrey Simon Arnold & White, LLP, Menlo Park; and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The US Department of Justice filed a friend of the court brief in support of the plaintiffs.