Federal Court Certifies Class in Legal Aid Case on Behalf of Sandy Survivors With Disabilities

Federal District Court Judge Katherine B. Forrest issued an order September 16th granting class status in a Legal Aid Society lawsuit brought on behalf of low-income New Yorkers with disabilities who faced obstacles in applying for federal disaster benefits in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. (Toney-Dick et al v. Doar et al., SDNY 12-Civ-9162.) The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), offered one-time benefits to families and individuals who were not currently receiving food stamps at the time of the storm.

The lawsuit alleges that because of the manner in which the City-run plan was designed and implemented, individuals with disabilities were unfairly disadvantaged. The program was available to people in the Rockaways, but the City required in-person applications at a remote site in downtown Brooklyn. No attempt was made to facilitate applications at alternative locations such as libraries, senior centers, and other facilities as was done in New Jersey, or to use fax, mail and internet applications or home visits for the New Yorkers with the most severe disabilities. These accommodations are regularly provided in the SNAP program and, according to federal and City officials, have proven successful in meeting the needs of people with disabilities and others to gain access to the program. The City and State had estimated that as many as 30,000 people might apply for the one-time benefit, which averaged $420 per household, but the City received only 6,000 applications. The lawsuit seeks a retroactive opportunity for those who were eligible to apply for the benefits, which averaged approximately $420 per household, and an effort by City, State and federal officials to ensure that the needs of those with disabilities are integrated into any future D-SNAP program.

Legal Aid attorneys Sumani Lanka and Ken Stephens, along with volunteer attorney Alex Stone-Tharp handled the motion. Lawyers from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP are also working pro bono on the case.

U.S. District Court
Southern District of New York
The following transaction was entered on 9/16/2013 at 1:34 PM EDT and filed on 9/16/2013
Case Name: Toney-Dick v. Doar et al
Case Number: 1:12-cv-09162-KBF
Document Number: 108

Docket Text:

MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER granting [47] Motion to Certify Class. The Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiffs' request for class certification, except that it divides the proposed class into two subclasses and strikes subsection (d) from the proposed class definition. One subclass shall consist of disabled individuals who were eligible to apply for benefits from the Sandy D-SNAP Program. The other subclass shall consist of individuals who may be eligible to apply for benefits from a future D-SNAP program and who will need reasonable accommodations because of a disability (or disabilities). The Clerk of Court is hereby directed to terminate Docket No. 47. (Signed by Judge Katherine B. Forrest on 9/13/2013) (mro)