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Doe v. St. John's Hospital of Hospital Sisters of Third of St. Francis

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

October 11, 2016

JOHN DOE 1, A MINOR, by and through his legal guardians, JOHN DOE 2 and JANE DOE, and JANE DOE and JOHN DOE 2 in their individual capacities, Plaintiffs,
v.
ST. JOHN'S HOSPITAL OF THE HOSPITAL SISTERS OF THE THIRD OF ST. FRANCIS, Defendant.

          OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs John Doe 1, a minor, by and through his legal guardians John Doe 2 and Jane Doe, and Jane Doe and John Doe 2 in their individual capacities, move to strike the affirmative defense of contributory negligence filed by Defendant St. John's Hospital of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (St. John's). Because contributory negligence is not an affirmative defense to a claim of discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In June 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against St. John's under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794. Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief and compensatory damages. See Compl. ¶ 32 (alleging that as a proximate result of St. John's violations of the Rehabilitation Act, St. John's has “inflicted injury and damages upon Plaintiffs, including loss of a civil right, mental anguish, humiliation[, ] and mental pain and suffering”). The Complaint contains the following allegations.

         Plaintiff John Doe 1 is the 14-year-old son of Plaintiffs Jane Doe and John Doe 2. Jane Doe and John Doe 2 are profoundly deaf and communicate primarily through American Sign Language. They both have limited understanding of written English and do not have the ability to lip read. St. John's is a regional medical center located in Springfield, Illinois, and is a recipient of federal funds within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act.

         Plaintiffs allege that, in November 2015, John Doe 1 was taken to Passavant Hospital and then transferred to the St. John's emergency room for acute and unexplained seizures and vomiting. Two days into his hospital stay, John Doe admitted to his mother that he had taken a classmate's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication.

         Plaintiffs allege that St. John's discriminated against Jane Doe and John Doe 2 by failing to provide them with auxiliary aids and services to allow them to effectively communicate with the medical staff while John Doe 1 was hospitalized. Plaintiffs also allege that St. John's discriminated against John Doe 1 on the basis of his parents' disabilities by denying John Doe 1 the full and equal enjoyment of facilities, equipment, and health care services by failing to provide auxiliary aids and other assistance to John Doe's parents, instead relying on John Doe 1 to facilitate communication between the medical staff and his parents.

         In August 2016, St. John's filed its Answer. In its Answer, St. John's raised as an affirmative defense that John Doe 1 was contributorily negligent because he took a classmate's ADHD medication and, had he not done so, he would not have suffered any medical effects that would have required medical attention. St. John's asserts that John Doe's conduct constitutes negligence that proximately contributed to the injuries alleged as to all of the Plaintiffs.

         II. JURISDICTION

         This Court has subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiffs' claims are based on the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, a federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States”). Venue is proper because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to Plaintiffs' claims occurred in this district. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         When a defendant responds to a pleading, the defendant must affirmatively state any avoidance or affirmative defense. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c). Rule 8(c) specifically lists contributory negligence as an affirmative defense that must be pled.

         Pursuant to Rule 12(f) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court may strike from a pleading “an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Motions to strike are generally disfavored because such motions often only delay the proceedings. See Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989). However, if a motion to strike removes unnecessary clutter from the case, then the motion serves to expedite, not delay, the proceedings. Id.

         IV. ...


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