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Crain v. Roseville Rehabilitation and Health Care

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

March 21, 2017

JANE CRAIN, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court is Defendant Roseville Rehabilitation and Health Care's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 25. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.


         Jane Crain began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (“CNA”) in 1991 at a nursing home in Roseville, Illinois (“Roseville”) operated by a company called American Health. She tore her right rotator cuff while working in 2008, and had two surgeries on her shoulder, making heavy lifting more difficult. Her doctor placed her under permanent weight restrictions, including: not lifting more than twenty pounds above the shoulder, not lifting more than thirty pounds to shoulder level, not carrying more than thirty-five pounds, and not pushing or pulling more than fifty pounds. Evaluation, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 9.

         When Crain returned to work, the Director of Nursing (“DON”) (the parties cannot agree about who this was at this time) moved her from her job on the hospital floor and made her a transportation aide, because the job of transportation aide involved less lifting than working as a nurse on the hospital floor.[2] At some later point, the DON (now agreed to be Connie Jacobs) assigned Crain to work as a CNA on the hospital floor every other weekend. Crain was assigned to the hall with the least amount of lifting, and other CNAs would help her with the lifting she did have to do. While it is not clear exactly who at Roseville Crain told about her injury and restrictions upon returning to work, at least three of Crain's co-workers-Jacobs, Kendra Livingston, and Patty Anderson-testified to an awareness of Crain's inability to lift some heavy objects, and that this was the reason that she was assigned to the hall with the least amount of lifting. See Crain Dep. 41, Resp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1; Livingston Dep. 10-11, Resp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3; Anderson Dep. 8-9, Resp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 4. According to Anderson, who was DON in 2013, Crain's condition was generally known amongst the CNAs who worked at Roseville. Anderson Dep. 9.

         In April 2010, Petersen Health Care - Roseville LLC (“Petersen”), the defendant in this case, [3] bought the nursing home from American Health. All employees who had worked for American Health and wanted to keep working at the nursing home had to submit new applications for employment. Crain's application for employment, which indicates that she worked as a “CNA - transportation aide, ” states that she is in generally good health, but that “due to 2®shoulder surgeries can not lift over 35 lbs.” Crain Application, Resp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 8, ECF No. 26. She also filled out a medical history form that asked her to list any conditions she had or had had “to determine an employee's ability to perform the essential functions of their [sic] position.” Crain Medical History, Resp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 9. Crain checked boxes indicating that she suffered from a tingling sensation in her arms or fingers, had difficulty lifting, and had had a rotator cuff injury, arthroscopy, and back injury or “back symptoms.” Id. In response to a question about whether a physician had ever restricted her activities, she wrote: “® shoulder - permanent lifting restriction - yes still under restriction.” Id. She also described the dates of her surgeries, what kind of surgeries they were, and stated that she had been on leave for one year after the shoulder injury, returning with a “permanent lifting restriction.” Id.

         Petersen keeps detailed descriptions of the job responsibilities for both “transportation drivers” and CNAs.[4] According to these descriptions, a transportation driver must be able to lift objects weighing up to fifty pounds, carry objects weighing up to twenty-five pounds, and push or pull objecting weighing up to fifty pounds, and also be able to lift residents into and out of vehicles. Job Summ. - Trans. Driver, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 11. A CNA must be able to lift objects weighing up to fifty pounds, carry objects weighing up to twenty pounds, and push and pull objects weighing up to one hundred pounds. Job Summ. - CNA, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 12. While conceding the existence of these rules, Crain points out that the van she used as a transportation aide was equipped with a mechanical lift that lifted residents for her, and that Ethel Logue, who is alleged later to have fired Crain, admitted that Crain had been able to perform all the requirements of the transportation aide job, as did Anderson. Similarly, Crain points to Livingston's testimony that as a CNA at Roseville, one was never called upon to carry more than 20 pounds. See Livingston Dep. 41. Livingston further opined that most of the things CNAs had to push were wheelchairs or lifts on wheels, and stated that she had never seen Crain unable to perform the duties of the CNA job. Id. at 48. So too, Jacobs stated that the only thing that a CNA or transportation aide would have to lift over 35 pounds would be a person, but that a lift would typically be used for that task. Jacobs Dep. 24-25, Resp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2.

         Nothing happened to Crain right away. Sometime between August 2013 and February 2014, Anderson asked Crain to work a twelve-hour shift as a CNA. Crain explained that her doctor had told her that she could not work twelve straight hours because of her shoulder. Anderson asked Crain “just . . . to write something for her” to support this request. Crain Dep. 66. Crain wrote a note saying she could not work for twelve hours at a stretch, and attached a doctor's note explaining her weight restrictions. See Evaluation. Anderson did not read this note, but put it in a drawer somewhere and scheduled Crain for eight-hour shifts, per her request.

         When Anderson was replaced as DON, someone found Crain's note and gave it to Logue, an administrator. Logue, Crain, and Nancy Simmons had a meeting on March 18, 2014. Petersen claims that at the meeting, Logue told Crain that “she would need to provide a doctor's note stating that she could perform the physical requirements of the transportation driver position in order to continue working for Petersen.” Mot. Summ. J. 5. However, Petersen supports the assertion by relying on Crain's deposition testimony, which reflects Crain's rather different version of events: that at this meeting Crain was “terminated, ” Crain Dep. 35, or “let go, ” id. at 78, until she could get a doctor's note indicating that she could work without restrictions “because no one at Petersen homes could work with restrictions, ” id. In any event, Crain stopped working for Petersen, apparently from this day forward.

         Crain filed the instant claim on September 4, 2014, Compl., ECF No. 1, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213 and/or the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701-718b, by terminating her employment. Petersen moved for summary judgment on April 4, 2016.


         I. Legal Standard on a Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate “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). At the summary judgment stage the court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial-that is, whether there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Patel v. Allstate Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 365, 370 (7th Cir. 1997). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. McCann v. Iroquois Mem'l Hosp., 622 F.3d 745, 752 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). “A genuine issue for trial exists only when a reasonable jury could find for the party opposing the motion based on the record as a whole.” Pipitone v. United States, 180 F.3d 859, 861 (7th Cir.1999) (citation omitted).

         II. ...

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