A Greek-American man with multiple sclerosis who must use a wheelchair is waging a war for disability access that most say was decided long ago with the passing of Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990.
Living in Miami Springs, Florida, Theodore Karantsalis, 60, is now mostly confined to his apartment complex because the curbs around his building have no cutouts for wheelchairs – and there are no no more disabled parking spaces.
This has been going on for five years, despite the near-ubiquitous disabled access features that have been the norm for decades across the United States. The City of Miami Springs continues to wage a legal war against Karantsalis, articulating their case that he waited too long to act against the city.
Disability access in the United States provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Karantsalis, a retired librarian and local journalist, continues the fight he started with his 2008 lawsuit against the city. Suffering from multiple sclerosis that year, he had to use a wheelchair to get around. In order to use a sidewalk with the necessary cut-out curb, he must first roll down the main driveway of his apartment complex and enter the street, which is unsafe.
This is the crux of his argument, which he says is an illegal situation under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
In September 2021, then-federal judge Ursula Ungaro dismissed Karantsalis’ lawsuit, brought by attorney Matthew Dietz, ruling that a four-year statute of limitations had expired for him to file his claim. – since being diagnosed with MS in 2008.
The pleadings that were part of the September 2021 case can be accessed here.
Case awaiting trial once again – city says issue has been fixed
However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has now reversed the previous ruling, sending his case to trial, as his disability gradually worsened between 2017 and 2019 to the point that he could no longer walk. That’s when the city violated its rights under the ADA by not meeting its needs, the November appeal ruling said.
“His ADA injury is the city’s denial of the benefits of his utility services,” the Nov. 12 order reads. “In other words, Karantsalis could not have sued the City before losing his mobility and his access to and use of the City’s public services.”
The Karantsalis v. City of Miami Springs case raises many questions about statutes of limitations, progressive disability and advocacy, the Greek-American man’s friends say.
After his MS symptoms improved, he withdrew his lawsuit, thinking at the time that that alone would have affected the outcome of the lawsuit. However, by 2019 Karantsalis’ MS symptoms had worsened again and he needed a wheelchair to get anywhere.
It was then that he again filed his complaint, alleging that the city and its facilities, programs and services were inaccessible to him.
The district court, however, dismissed his suit, saying the four-year statute of limitations, which was triggered before or during the 2008 lawsuit when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, had expired.
Finally, in November, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision, stating that Karantsalis did not have to wait to sue until his disability ultimately resulted in loss of mobility.
On January 12, 2022, a discussion featuring Karantsalis and his ADA case was released on SoundCloud and is available here.
Meanwhile, the retired librarian and former local journalist says he still faces a dangerous environment when trying to leave his home since the city still hasn’t done anything this week. “It’s really hard for me to get out of my house,” Karantsalis said. Florida bulldog in an interview, pointing out, “I have to walk down my driveway on a busy street. It’s not prudent. All I ask is that they fix the sidewalk.
Dietz, a Miami disability attorney, said the Miami Springs city attorney has indicated the city will soon be modifying its sidewalks and designating disabled parking spaces at its public facilities.
However, Dietz said the city was only doing this so Karantsalis’ suit could be dismissed.
“If they’re going to fix it, that’s going to be moot,” Dietz told interviewers at Florida Bulldog, adding “I haven’t seen any evidence of it. And I’ve asked for all the plans, all the documents and all the notes that show that they’re going to do the fixes.
The lawyer said the city’s new decision was only adopted to avoid paying damages and attorney’s fees to Karantsalis. “This is a common tactic by municipalities when sued for ADA compliance,” Dietz said.
For his part, Miami Springs City Manager William Alonso told reporters the city does not comment on ongoing litigation. However, Christopher Stearns, a private attorney hired by Miami Springs to fight the Karantsalis case, said in an email, “All alleged impediments identified in the plaintiff’s complaint have long since been resolved.
“The City invites anyone who thinks there are architectural barriers to bring them to the City’s Disability Advisory Council, where they will be promptly addressed.”
After Karantsalis voluntarily withdrew his earlier complaint, he received assurances from Miami Springs officials that they would fix the sidewalks near his home, as well as other public rights of way, he recalled in the Florida bulldog report.
“At the time, the then-city attorney said he didn’t anticipate a problem and they were looking to work things out with regards to ADA compliance,” said said Karantsalis. “The city manager at the time also promised that the city would do the right thing. That was over 10 years ago. »
Now the disabled Greek-American man spends ‘most of my days in my room’, he says, unable to use the city’s new gymnasium because it’s ‘poorly configured to adequately serve people with mobility issues. reduced,” he said, adding “My doctors encouraged me to come out.
“My dermatologist told me it was important for me to have some sun and my neurologist told me that going to the swimming pool would be good for me as well.”
Dietz explained the situation by saying that municipalities would rather fight an ADA lawsuit than just fix the issues because such cases are covered by insurance companies.
“Most of these cases should be relatively simple to solve,” Dietz said, adding “It’s the same lawyer under the same insurance policy representing these cases. So there’s an incentive to litigate.
Karantzalis’ case is now before Miami federal judge Cecilia Altonaga.
An online presentation discussing the case’s arguments, case findings, and what this case means for people with disabilities and the ADA can be viewed here.