Barnes v. Gorman, 536 U.S. 181, 4 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

ing at the station, respondent was booked, processed, and released; later he was convicted of misdemeanor trespass. After these events, respondent suffered serious medical problems—including a bladder infection, serious lower back pain, and uncontrollable spasms in his paralyzed areas—that left him unable to work full time.

Respondent brought suit against petitioners—members of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, the chief of police, and the officer who drove the van—in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The suit claimed petitioners had discriminated against respondent on the basis of his disability, in violation of 202 of the ADA and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, by failing to maintain appropriate policies for the arrest and transportation of persons with spinal cord injuries.

A jury found petitioners liable and awarded over $1 million in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages. The District Court vacated the punitive damages award, holding that punitive damages are unavailable in suits under 202 of the ADA and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed, relying on this Court's decision in Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, 503 U. S. 60, 70-71 (1992), which stated the "general rule" that "absent clear direction to the contrary by Congress, the federal courts have the power to award any appropriate relief in a cognizable cause of action brought pursuant to a federal statute." Punitive damages are appropriate relief, the Eighth Circuit held, because they are "an integral part of the common law tradition and the judicial arsenal," 257 F. 3d 738, 745 (2001), and Congress did nothing to disturb this tradition in enacting or amending the relevant statutes, id., at 747. We granted certiorari. 534 U. S. 1103 (2002).


Section 202 of the ADA prohibits discrimination against the disabled by public entities; 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

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