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Golden v. Illinois Department of Corrections

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 26, 2016

ERIC GEORGE GOLDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, SALVADOR A. GODINEZ, MARCUS HARDY, MICHAEL LEMKE, SANDRA FUNK, NANCY POUNOVICH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Eric Golden, an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, claims that Defendants are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide him with reasonable accommodations for his disability. Golden has moved for summary judgment, and Defendants-the IDOC and various former and current employees-have as well. For the reasons given below, the Court denies both motions but dismisses the individual defendants from the case because they are not amenable to suit under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The following facts are undisputed except where noted. Golden lost his left leg below the knee following a surgical amputation prior to his incarceration at Stateville. See Pl.'s SOF ¶ 4; Defs.' SOF ¶ 11. He requires a prosthetic leg to walk. See Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 8, 11. He received his current prosthesis in 2013 while incarcerated at Stateville, at the order of a doctor at the facility. See Defs.' SOF ¶ 15.

         Because of Stateville's physical layout, even disabled inmates must walk substantial distances and up and down stairs in order to utilize the services the facility offers. See Pl.'s SOF ¶ 10. To the knowledge of Stateville's ADA Facilities Coordinator, Nancy Pounovich, Stateville does not house any wheelchair-bound inmates. See Id. ¶ 23; Pl.'s Ex. G, Pounovich Dep. at 69.[1]

         Defendants have provided Golden with various aids and special permits because of his disability. The aids include the prosthesis itself, grab bars in the shower, and shower chairs. See Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 60. The permits include a “slow walk” permit that allows him to walk at his own pace, a permit that allows him to be housed in a cell on the first or second floor of the prison, and a “low bunk” permit. See Id. ¶¶ 37, 39, 41. Golden has requested a “lay-in” permit, which would require prison staff to bring his meals to his cell, but he has not been granted one. Defs.' SOF ¶ 36.

         Golden testified that, despite the aids and permits he has received, he has difficulty walking. He experiences pain and abrasions from the friction between the prosthesis and his residual limb, especially when walking up and down stairs. See Pl.'s SOF ¶ 11; Defs.' SOF ¶ 20. He also experiences difficulty with balance and has fallen several times while showering or attempting to use the toilet.[2] Id.; Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 34, 46. The shower grab bars are not always effective at preventing falls because Golden must walk across a wet shower floor to get to them. Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' SOF ¶ 60. So far, he has not been seriously injured in a fall, see Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 34, 36, but he fears future falls, see Pl.'s SOF ¶ 11.

         Golden testified that he misses three to four meals in the cafeteria per week because of the pain walking causes. See Defs.' SOF ¶ 24. When he misses a meal, he purchases food for himself from the commissary. Id. ¶ 25. Also as the result of pain from walking, Golden misses communal exercise about four times per month and religious services two times per month. See Id. ¶¶ 27, 33. Defendants do not deny that Golden misses these events because of his disability. Id. ¶¶ 24, 26, 27, 33.

         At least twice, Golden has requested a transfer from Stateville to Dixon Correctional Center, a facility that his prison counselor told him is ADA compliant. See Id. ¶¶ 52, 56; Defs.'s Ex. A, Golden Dep. at 21. Golden's first transfer request was approved by the warden of Stateville but ultimately was denied by the IDOC's Office of the Transfer Coordinator because the request had not been approved by the Office of Health Services. See Pl.'s SOF ¶ 12; Defs.' SOF ¶ 52. Golden's second request was also approved by the warden but then denied by the Office of the Transfer Coordinator, this time because Golden was “appropriately placed.” See Pl.'s SOF ¶ 15; Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 56, 57, 59.

         Stateville is a maximum-security facility, while Dixon is a medium-security facility, see Defs.' SOF ¶ 51; Ex. B at ¶ 33, and there is evidence that the difference in security level played a role in the denial of Golden's second transfer request. Sandra Funk, the IDOC's Transfer Coordinator, explained in her deposition that, based on her review of the records, one factor that weighed against transferring Golden to a lower security facility was that he is designated as a suspected gang leader. Defs.' Ex. D, Funk Dep. at 35. Asked whether the practical effect of the suspected gang-leader designation is an “absolute prohibition” on transfer to a lower-security facility, Funk responded that it is “not absolute but it is something that's considered.” Id. She also testified that prison officials besides the warden, including an assistant warden and a correctional counselor, supported allowing Golden to transfer because of his disability. Id. at 37-40.

         After Golden's last transfer request was denied, he first exhausted his administrative remedies and then filed this lawsuit, in which he seeks damages[3] as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. He and Defendants have filed cross motions for summary judgment.

         II. Legal Standard

         The Court shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court gives “the non-moving party the benefit of conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that could be drawn from it.” Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 794 (7th Cir. 2013). In order to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The nonmoving party “must establish some genuine issue for trial such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in her favor, ” Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2012).

         III. ...


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