Wednesday, April 29, 2009

San Francisco to pay $92,000 to wheelchair users stranded in BART station with elevator turned off

From the City Insider in San Francisco:

The city is poised to pay $92,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by two wheelchair-bound men who got stranded outside the Powell Street Muni and BART station when a city-owned elevator was turned off.

"It was a regrettable incident that should never have happened," City Attorney
Dennis Herrera said, "and the city has to make sure it never happens again."

The lawsuit that Robert Cruz, 61, and Darwin Dias, 75, filed in U.S. District Court alleges violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

It also reads like a scathing indictment of city services.

Cruz and Dias, both in motorized wheelchairs, say they took an elevator down from street level to meet friends at Cable Car Coffee in Hallidie Plaza on May 26, 2007. It was a Saturday at about 2:45 p.m.

When their friends left via BART, Cruz and Dias went to the elevator at about 4 p.m., only to find it shut off, their lawsuit says. A sign above the elevator said it only operates until 3 p.m. on weekends.

The two men found themselves trapped, facing 20 stairs up to street level and six stairs down to the station.

This, according to their lawsuit:

Cable Car Coffee staff? No help.

Two police officers who happened by? They suggested Cruz, in need of relief, urinate in a corner gutter.

Muni service line? Not our elevator, call the Department of Public Works.

DPW? There's only one key to that elevator and the guy who has it left for Memorial Day weekend. There's no way to contact him.

The Police Department? Call the Fire Department.

Finally some help. Firefighters arrive, carry the wheelchairs down six stairs to the station, where the men can take an elevator.

The upshot? The Board of Supervisors' Rules Committee has recommended taxpayers pony up $92,000, something the whole board is to vote on April 28.