Barber, et. al.. v. State of Colorado et. al., D.C. Colo., Civil Action No. 05-RB-807 (CBS)
Colorado state law allows fifteen-year-olds to practice driving with a learners permit. However a licensed parent or guardian must be in the vehicle with the teenager. Teenagers are required to complete a number of hours of practice driving before they are allowed to obtain their drivers license. The State of Colorado and the Division of Motor Vehicles have refused to make reasonable modifications of policies, practices and procedures and allow a parent with a disability who is unable to drive to appoint a proxy to allow the teenaged child to practice driving.
Plaintiffs filed their complaint in federal court on May 2, 2005. The parties agreed to dismiss the claims for injunctive relief because the Colorado Legislature changed the law to allow parents with disabilities to designate a driving supervisor for their children. Plaintiff’s claims for compensatory damages was denied by United States District Court Judge Robert Blackburn who granted the state’s motion for summary judgment. See attached order under “Available Documents.” This decision was appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. On April 15, 2009, the Tenth Circuit ruled against plaintiff Barber holding that the State of Colorado did not intentionally discriminate against plaintiff because the State acted to amend the statute to address Ms. Barber’s accommodation request and because (according to the court) the State statute provided for a “reasonable” alternative to her accommodation request: a limited guardianship relinquishing some authority to her sighted father to supervise her daughter’s driving.
On a positive note, the Tenth Circuit made clear that the State cannot rely on a state statute that conflicts with the ADA as a basis for avoiding liability under the ADA.