Los Angeles, California – Today the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC), together with pro bono counsel, filed a federal nationwide class action lawsuit in a California U.S. District Court against FlixBus Inc., TourCoach Charter & Tours, and USA Coach Services, on behalf of Francisco Serrano and all passengers who use a wheelchair, scooter, or other mobility aid. The lawsuit, brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, seeks damages and an injunction to ensure that FlixBus passengers with disabilities are able to use the nationwide service without hassle, humiliation, or extra time or cost. FlixBus had a reported market valuation of $2 billion in July 2019.
Plaintiff Francisco Serrano, a Los Angeles resident who has a disability and uses a wheelchair for mobility, uses FlixBus for transportation to visit his family in San Diego, among other reasons, only to be confronted with inaccessible buses and untrained staff on at least a dozen occasions.He alleges he has faced hours-long delays, been forced to find last-minute, expensive alternate transportation, missed important appointments, and worse.
The lawsuit alleges a nationwide problem of inaccessible buses, affecting thousands of people who rely on wheelchairs or other mobility aids. “I wanted to visit my family, but instead I faced discrimination and humiliation,” said Mr. Serrano. “Nobody should be stranded overnight, trapped on a bus alone for hours while mechanics make repairs, or have to be carried onto the bus by others like I was.”
“Almost thirty years ago, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark law mandating that people with disabilities are not segregated, isolated, or discriminated against, including in the vital field of transportation,” said Stephen Newman, one of Mr. Serrano’s attorneys. “Without consistent and reliable access to transportation, people with disabilities are both literally and figuratively left behind.”
Although FlixBus CEO André Schwämmlein has publicly expressed his “vision of making mobility accessible for millions of people,” the lawsuit alleges his vision of accessibility too often fails to include people with disabilities. In fact, when Mr. Serrano complained about his treatment, he alleges a FlixBus representative admitted that the company does not routinely perform pre-trip inspections of bus lifts, a violation of Department of Transportation regulations.
“FlixBus and its operators, despite Mr. Serrano’s efforts, have flagrantly disregarded the law and subjected people who use wheelchairs to illegal discrimination and humiliation,” said Brendan Hamme, Senior Staff Attorney at the Disability Rights Legal Center. “Although we attempted to resolve these problems without litigation, we, unfortunately, had no choice but to file this lawsuit to vindicate the rights of our client and untold numbers of people across the country.”
The lawsuit seeks, among other things, a court order requiring FlixBus and its contractors to provide full and equal access to persons with disabilities by ensuring that all their buses comply with the law, conducting regular inspections and maintenance on their vehicles, including pre-trip inspections, and training their employees how to operate the lifts and ensure their passengers’ safety.
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP is pro bono co-counsel with the Disability Rights Legal Center in this matter. Stroock’s Public Service Project, created in 2001, is the cornerstone of the firm’s longtime but always evolving commitment to serving the public interest, and primarily provides legal assistance to underserved and under-resourced communities, including by advocating on behalf of persons with disabilities. “We are proud to work with DRLC on this important civil rights matter,” said Stephen J. Newman, a Stroock partner based in Los Angeles.
About Disability Rights Legal Center
Founded in 1975, the Disability Rights Legal Center is the nation’s oldest national non-profit public interest cross disability law center. The organization’s mission is to champion the rights of people with disabilities through education, advocacy and litigation. wwwthedrlc.org