Gray, et al. v. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, et al., No. C-08-00722-EDL (N.D. Cal. Aug. 30, 2011)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

This is an order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification in their claim for injunctive relief. In 2011, Lori Gray, other individual named plaintiffs, and organizational plaintiff California Council of the Blind sought injunctive relief enjoining Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) from violating Section 504 (a) of the Rehabilitation Act. Ms. Gray has visual and mobility disabilities and alleged a number of access barriers at GGNRA parks. In her claim, Ms. Gray alleged systematic discrimination by GGNRA on the basis of her visual and mobility disabilities insofar as GGNRA failed to provide adequate accommodations. The plaintiffs sought class certification under Rule 23 (b) (2).

The Court granted Ms. Gray, et al. class certification on the following grounds. First, the plaintiffs met the threshold requirement of demonstrating the existence of an identifiable and ascertainable class: here, "vision and mobility impaired individuals who are being denied access to various portions of the GGNRA." Second, the plaintiffs met all Rule 23 (a) requirements. The plaintiffs satisfied numerosity by the reasonable likelihood that thousands of persons with visual and/or mobility disabilities will visit GGNRA and experience the alleged access barriers. Third, the plaintiffs satisfied Rule 23 (b) (2) requirements because it was plausible that a sufficiently specific injunction (e.g., ordering the reformation of GGNRA's policies alleged to be deficient) could be formulated to resolve the claims. The Court dismissed GGNRA's argument that the nature of the plaintiffs and their claims allowed only for a broad injunction to "obey the law" in violation of Rule 65. Fourth, the Court found unpersuasive GGNRA's argument that class certification was unnecessary to achieve the individual named plaintiffs' claim for injunctive relief.

This order may be helpful for HIV and disability law advocates seeking class certification for individuals denied access to public spaces and facilities on the basis of their HIV status. It may be particularly helpful for HIV-related housing and employment discrimination cases. The Court clearly outlines Rule 23 requirements and cites case law that provides support for plaintiffs whose common disability may manifest itself in many different ways – a common occurrence in HIV disability cases. In particular, its discussion of Rule 23 (a)'s commonality and typicality requirements may be helpful for plaintiffs with varying types and levels of HIV-related disability and/or plaintiffs alleging a number of access barriers or deficient practices and policies.