Police had more difficulty than they expected in catching Laura Lee Medley, because she is not in fact disabled as she had claimed to be in a series of claims she had filed against various public entities. Medley reportedly filed at least three different claims against California cities and counties, alleging each time that she was injured after a non-ADA-complaint road or curb caused her wheelchair to tip over, breaking her arm.
Actually, three of her arms — she made three broken-arm claims in the space of eight weeks. I guess it’s not impossible that she broke her left arm in two places in two separate incidents, but that is apparently not what she was claiming.
Medley came under suspicion when she filed the third of these claims, against San Bernardino County, seeking $9,072 in medical expenses and lost wages. County officials asked for medical records to back up the claim, and Medley was happy to oblige. Unfortunately for her, she does not know how to spell "Bernardino," and officials noticed the consistent misspelling in all of the documents including those that were allegedly official hospital records. Officials later confirmed that all the documents were fakes.
With two warrants out for her arrest, Medley was traced to Las Vegas and eventually arrested there. She complained of medical problems after her arrest and was taken to a hospital. "That’s where the great miracle occurred," said a spokesman for San Bernardino County. According to the Associated Press account, Medley waited for an opportunity and then "leaped from her wheelchair and ran for freedom." A high-risk strategy that, if it fails, is not likely to be good for any of your disability lawsuits (such as Medley’s pending lawsuit against Long Beach in California federal court). Medley led police on a "brief foot pursuit" before being recaptured.
At least one blogger out there is lamenting the widespread coverage of this story on the grounds that it will perpetuate the "urban legend" that disabled people file bogus disability lawsuits over technicalities, seeking to make money. I’m not sure why he thinks that, since this is a story about non-disabled people filing bogus disability lawsuits over technicalities, seeking to make money. For the record, Lowering the Bar fully supports the rights of the disabled. It does, however, believe that this story suggests an inverse relationship between the strength of a person’s rights under disability law and that person’s ability to leap from a wheelchair and lead police on a foot pursuit, however brief. That’s all I’m saying.