Kirby Ingram alleges that he was peacefully cooperating with the police in the midst of a mental health crisis when an officer, annoyed with Ingram’s erratic behavior, body-slammed him, leaving him in the hospital requiring the fusion of two of his vertebrae and the replacement of another. The complaint alleges both excessive force and disability discrimination twice over—both a failure to accommodate his disability as well as intentional discrimination on the basis of it. The district court held that even if Ingram was discriminated against due to his disabilities and even if the officer did commit excessive force, due to the doctrines of qualified immunity and vicarious liability he does not have a remedy.
Fortunately, the law does not mandate such an unjust result. As several circuit courts have held, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits people with disabilities to bring claims against government entities for the illegal disability discrimination of their employees without requiring a demonstration that the entity itself was deliberately indifferent to the discrimination. The ADA is a broad remedial statute, intended to be read robustly, and the unavailability of such suits would leave many victims of disability discrimination, especially by police officers and prison officials, without a remedy. Additionally, qualified immunity does not require precedent with identical facts, particularly when any reasonable officer would know his conduct was illegal.