Five disabled veterans challenging New York state’s ban on motorized vehicles in portions of the Adirondack Park have established the injury-in-fact requirement to continue an action under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal judge has held. Northern District Judge Gary Sharpe (See Profile) said the plaintiffs in Baker v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 10-cv-1016, presented “just enough facts” to permit the court to infer that they are dissuaded from visiting 38 lakes and ponds because of violations of the act.
The plaintiffs suffer from impairments ranging from an amputation to a spinal injury to a blood circulation issue that affect their ability to walk and access portions of the pristine wilderness of the 6-million acre Adirondack Park, which contains more than 3,000 lakes and ponds and 2,000 miles of hiking trails. Maynard Baker, the lead plaintiff, is a veteran and licensed pilot who suffers from an artery blockage requiring him to use a motorized vehicle or wheelchair. In 2008, Baker asked the Department of Environmental Conservation for permission to use a float plane to access Adirondack lakes but was turned down. He and several other veterans filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the state’s policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. New York moved to dismiss, arguing the plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement for standing.
Sharpe held that while the plaintiffs “offer little in the way of rebuttal,” their allegation that they have been “deterred from visiting the lakes because of noncompliance” with the act is sufficient “at this juncture” to confer standing.