From cases of discrimination to getting the proper services for a child with ASD, parents and caregivers have brought lawsuits against a variety of businesses and organizations. Additionally, there have been a few successful suits focused on whether specific factors caused autism in an individual. Understanding the court cases can provide a glimpse at the current legal environment surrounding ASD, and reviewing these cases can even help you decide whether it makes sense to contact an attorney.
Lawsuits Involving Discrimination
Many individuals with autism have experienced discrimination in one way or another. From being denied admission to a daycare or being asked to wait for rides at a theme park, there are many reasons families have sued.
Disney Autism Discrimination Lawsuit
The Orlando Sentinel reports that in 2014, 16 families of children with autism filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The lawsuit involved the parks' new policy regarding disabled guests. Instead of giving these guests the ability to go to the front of all lines, the new policy gives them a specified time to come back and ride. While this may seem like a reasonable solution for many disabilities, the families asserted that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For many of these children, waiting for the rides could result in meltdowns and an exacerbation of symptoms.
Housing Discrimination Lawsuit
According to Autism Speaks, a federal appeals court upheld an earlier ruling regarding discrimination by a landlord in West Virginia. The landlord imposed several conditions when renting an apartment to a woman who had a brother with severe autism, including requiring her to get a doctor's note stating that her brother would not pose a liability. The court ruled against the landlord.
Daycare Discrimination Lawsuit
In 2011, parents of a two-year-old with autism sued a daycare in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, according to The Day. The daycare center, which allegedly asked the parents to remove the child because he required continual schedule modifications, settled out of court without accepting fault. The daycare paid the family over $7,000.
Abercrombie and Fitch Autism Discrimination Lawsuit
In 2009, retailer Abercrombie and Fitch was ordered to pay over $100,000 to a 14-year-old girl with autism, according to Minnesota Public Radio. The girl, who was shopping with her family at the Mall of America, was not allowed to accompany her sister into a fitting room, despite the family's explanation about her disability.
Lawsuits to Gain Services
Even in the best school districts, parents and school officials can disagree about the treatment and educational services provided to children with ASD. A number of families have sued to gain services for children with autism.
Bentonville, Arkansas School District Lawsuit
According to KFSM-5, parents of a child with autism brought suit against the Bentonville, Arkansas school district for forcing the boy to attend an autism-only classroom without gaining parental consent. The parents assert that the boy did not receive access to an education on par with that of his peers, violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004).
Boston Public Schools Lawsuit
Parents of a preschooler with autism sued Boston Public Schools for failing to assess and enroll their child before his third birthday, according to National Public Radio. Parents asserted that he child, who has an autism diagnosis, was receiving early childhood services and making progress, but the lapse in services caused him to regress. As a result of the 2012 lawsuit, the school district has opened more classrooms that focus on special education for preschoolers.
Lawsuits to Establish Fault
Although rare, a few landmark cases have shown that a child's autism was the result of a specific event. These cases may offer clues about the cause of some types of autism.
Hannah Poling Vaccine Lawsuit
In 2008, parents of a girl with a mitochondrial disorder asserted that vaccines made the condition worse and eventually caused their daughter to receive an autism diagnosis. CNN reports that although the parents and some advocacy groups feel this reinforced the idea that there could be a link between autism and vaccines, the CDC asserts that this was a specific case and not representative of the general ASD population.
Two Vaccine Court Cases
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conceded two cases asserting that vaccines caused autism in specific children, according to the Huffington Post. In both cases, HHS did not state that the autism was caused by the vaccines, only that they did not want to continue devoting resources to the court battles.
Understand and Advocate
From deciding whether a child should receive services to establishing a potential cause of autism, court cases have helped to shape the way society sees ASD. Keeping up-to-date on these cases can help parents and caregivers understand their rights and advocate for their children.