Federal Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against DC for Mistreatment of Person With Diabetes

WASHINGTON, DC - On April 8, 2016, Relman, Dane & Colfax and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs filed a disability discrimination lawsuit in federal district court against the District of Columbia (“District”) on behalf of John Goodykoontz, an area resident with Type 1 diabetes. After the District’s police officers arrested Mr. Goodykoontz for outstanding speeding tickets, they refused to allow him to administer his own insulin. Instead, Mr. Goodykoontz had to request to go to an area hospital to receive insulin. The next morning, although the District knew Mr. Goodykoontz needed insulin, they did not provide it to him before taking him to court for arraignment. As a result, he became seriously ill, needed to be hospitalized, and missed his arraignment – resulting in an additional night in jail.

Because of the District’s failure to provide Mr. Goodykoontz with the basic medical attention that he needed, he suffered severe medical complications while in custody. He was forced to spend three days in custody (including at the D.C. Jail) for minor traffic violations and additional days in a hospital critical care unit following his release—none of which would have been necessary if the District had provided him with basic medical care after his arrest.

“It is unacceptable that, simply because John Goodykoontz has diabetes, a routine arrest for a minor violation led to prolonged time in custody and put his health at risk,” said Sasha Samberg-Champion, an attorney with Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC.  “Millions of Americans have diabetes.  It should not be a life-endangering event for them to get arrested.”

The Complaint alleges that the District, as a matter of policy, does not provide sufficient care to those with disabilities in its custody who, like Mr. Goodykoontz, require insulin or other medications. As a result, these individuals are at risk of serious harm and often detained for much longer than necessary because of easily preventable medical complications and hospitalizations. The Complaint further alleges that the District often encourages its employees, including corrections officers and police officers, to ignore arrestees’ medical needs to avoid taking those in custody to the hospital.

“The Kafkaesque, harmful treatment endured by Mr. Goodykoontz shows what’s wrong with D.C.’s policy,” said Elliot Mincberg, senior counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “In contrast to D.C., the federal Bureau of Prisons permits diabetics to administer their own insulin, a policy that would have prevented this damage from occurring. We appreciate working with Relman, Dane & Colfax to help get justice for Mr. Goodykoontz and to prevent future harm to persons with disabilities in D.C. custody.”

The lawsuit alleges that Defendant’s failure to accommodate those with diabetes in its custody violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the D.C. Human Rights Act, and the Constitution of the United States.

A copy of the complaint is available online here.

Media contacts:           

Sasha Samberg-Champion | Relman, Dane & Colfax
(202) 728-1888; ssamberg-champion@relmanlaw.com

Elliot Mincberg | Washington Lawyers’ Committee
(202) 319-1000; Elliot_Mincberg@washlaw.org


ABOUT RELMAN, DANE & COLFAX:
Relman, Dane & Colfax is a civil rights law firm based in Washington, D.C., with additional offices in Ohio and New Mexico. The Firm litigates civil rights cases in the areas of housing, lending, employment, public accommodations, education, and police accountability. Relman, Dane & Colfax’s national practice includes individual and class action lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs who have suffered discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, national origin, color, religion, sex, disability, age, familial status, source of income, and sexual orientation.

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs was established in 1968 to provide pro bono legal services to address issues of discrimination and entrenched poverty. Since then, it has successfully handled thousands of civil rights cases on behalf of individuals and groups in the areas of fair housing, equal employment opportunity, public accommodations, immigrant rights, disability rights, public education, and prisoners’ rights.

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