Barnes v. Gorman, 536 U.S. 181, 3 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 181 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

We must decide whether punitive damages may be awarded in a private cause of action brought under 202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 104 Stat. 337, 42 U. S. C. 12132 (1994 ed.), and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 394, 29 U. S. C. 794(a).


Respondent Jeffrey Gorman, a paraplegic, is confined to a wheelchair and lacks voluntary control over his lower torso, including his bladder, forcing him to wear a catheter attached to a urine bag around his waist. In May 1992, he was arrested for trespass after fighting with a bouncer at a Kansas City, Missouri, nightclub. While waiting for a police van to transport him to the station, he was denied permission to use a restroom to empty his urine bag. When the van arrived, it was not equipped to receive respondent's wheelchair. Over respondent's objection, the officers removed him from his wheelchair and used a seatbelt and his own belt to strap him to a narrow bench in the rear of the van. During the ride to the police station, respondent released his seatbelt, fearing it placed excessive pressure on his urine bag. Eventually, the other belt came loose and respondent fell to the floor, rupturing his urine bag and injuring his shoulder and back. The driver, the only officer in the van, finding it impossible to lift respondent, fastened him to a support for the remainder of the trip. Upon arriv-Joel D. Kuperberg, Philip D. Kohn, John Sanford Todd, Robert E. Shannon, Joseph A. Soldani, William B. Conners, Gregory P. Priamos, Hadden Roth, James F. Penman, George Rios, Brien J. Farrell, Valerie J. Armento, Debra E. Corbett, J. Wallace Wortham, Jr., A. Scott Chinn, Karl F. Dean, Michael Cardozo, Nelson A. Diaz, Jeffrey L. Rogers, John C. Wolfe, and Harry Morrison, Jr.; and for the International City/County Management Association et al. by Richard Ruda and James I. Crowley.

Jeffrey Robert White filed a brief for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance.


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