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Class Action – Certification

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Preston Bennett v. Thomas Dart

Case No.: 22-8016

Officials: Easterbrook, Rovner, and Wood, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Class Action – Certification

Bennett contends that Division 10 of Cook County Jail does not satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act because it lacks the grab bars and other fixtures that disabled inmates may need in order to use showers and toilets safely. When seeking certification of a class action, Bennett tried to simplify the case by relying on a regulation providing that “as of March 7, 1988 … construction[] or alteration of buildings” must comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS or the Standards). 28 C.F.R. §42.522(b)(1). The Standards require accessible toilets to have grab bars nearby, UFAS §4.17.6, and accessible showers to have mounted seats, UFAS §4.21.3. Division 10 was constructed in 1992 and so, Bennett insists, must comply with these standards.

The district court declined to certify the requested class in 2020, ruling that to do so would entail a premature adjudication of the merits, which the judge equated to one-way intervention. This court reversed and remanded holding that class certification would not entail resolution of the merits.

The Seventh Circuit again reversed. The 2020 decision identified an issue relevant to every Division 10 detainee. Class certification under Rule 23(c)(4) resolves the issue, not the whole case

Reversed

Decided 11/14/22

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