HIV+ Child Denied Admission to Camp Wins Discrimination Suit

January 13, 2010

Cleary Gottlieb won a key summary judgment ruling for a ten year old child (Adam Doe) and his mother, who brought suit against a summer camp that denied him admission after learning of his HIV status. The case was brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New York Human Rights Laws in federal court in New York. The Honorable Judge Donald Pogue, sitting by designation, issued a ruling on January 13.

The camp’s principal defense was that, under the ADA, places of public accommodation may refuse admission to a disabled applicant whom they establish posed a “direct threat” to the safety of others. The camp argued that Adam posed a direct threat because he could transmit HIV to others should he leave blood in his stool or urine when using the camp’s swimming pool or toilets.

The court rejected the camp’s contention and accepted in full Cleary Gottlieb’s argument that a place of public accommodation must establish its direct threat defense based on reasonably available objective medical evidence and not on irrational fears or stereotypes about people with disabilities. In an important victory for HIV-rights, the court also rejected the notion that a camp would be excused from making an informed determination simply because it had a short window in which to establish this “direct threat” defense. The court ruled that the camp had violated the ADA and the New York Human Rights Laws as a matter of law.

The case was originally brought by the Legal Aid Society of Rockland County, New York, and the Legal Action Center. After extensive discovery, the two organizations sought Cleary Gottlieb’s assistance in preparing and defending cross motions for summary judgment.