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Flora v. Dart

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

May 17, 2017

DONNELL FLORA, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS DART, Sheriff of Cook County, and COOK COUNTY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

         Donnell Flora filed this lawsuit against Sheriff Thomas Dart, in his official capacity, and Cook County (collectively, the Sheriff), alleging that the Sheriff violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, and the Rehabilitation Act (RA), 29 U.S.C. § 794(a), while Flora was housed in the Cook County Jail as a pretrial detainee. Flora has now moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability on certain of his claims.

         Background

         Unless stated otherwise, the following facts are undisputed. Flora is a paraplegic who is confined to a wheelchair. Due to his condition, he is unable to care for himself without some sort of assistance. For example, Flora must use a catheter to urinate. Flora is able to use a toilet independently only if he is provided with a raised toilet with grab bars.

         Flora was detained at the Cook County Jail from April 30, 2014 to March 22, 2016. From May 2014 to September 2014, Flora was assigned to rooms in three separate areas of the Cook County Jail: Cermak North, Cermak South, and the Residential Treatment Unit (RTU). From May 1, 2014 to August 5, 2014, Flora was housed in Cermak 3 North. During this period of time, Cermak 3 North had only one room-room 3243-that had at least one grab bar near the toilet. From May 1, 2014 to June 4, 2014 and August 1, 2014 to August 4, 2014, Flora was assigned to a room with a standard toilet and sink combination that lacked a grab bar. Flora testified that while he was housed in Cermak 3 North, he was dependent on other inmates to place him on the toilet because he was unable to do so on his own.

         From May 1, 2014 to August 5, 2014, Flora used the group shower in Cermak 3 North. Cermak 3 North lacked a mounted shower seat in its group shower. A wheelchair-using detainee housed in Cermak had the option of using a portable shower chair. Id. Flora requested and was provided with a portable shower chair. He contends that he was unable to propel himself onto the portable shower chair due to the size of its wheels. On at least one occasion, however, Flora was able to effectively use the portable shower chair with the assistance of a nurse. But on at least one other occasion, Flora says, he fell in the shower and injured himself. Defs.' Stat, of Material Facts (SOMF), Ex. H (Grievances) at 000086. In a grievance that he submitted to the Sheriff, Flora wrote that he fell in the shower as he attempted to transfer himself from his wheelchair to the portable shower chair. He also requested medical attention and a "proper shower chair." Id.

         From August 6, 2014 to August 21, 2014, Flora was housed in Cermak 3 South. From August 6, 2014 to August 10, 2014, he was assigned to room 3123, which had a standard toilet without a grab bar. From August 10, 2014 to August 21, 2014, Flora was assigned to room 3125, which likewise had a standard toilet without a grab bar. Flora testified that during his time in Cermak 3 South, he was required to defecate on his bed and store his feces in a red hazard bag until he was able to dispose the waste the next day. Flora explained in a grievance that "[o]n August 7, 2014 .... I was moved [to] a room that [is not] accessible. I asked to be moved to a room that is accessible. I was told that there wasn't any room like that and that wasn't the first time [that] I [have] heard that." Grievances at 000086. He asked to be moved to a "handicap accessible room to prevent further injury." Id.

         On August 24, 2014, Flora was transferred to the RTU. Prior to Flora's transfer, Dr. Connie Mennella, the Chair of Medicine for Cermak Health Services, sent an e-mail to the Sheriff's office and Cermak that included a list of eighty prisoner-patients who were to be moved to the RTU. In the body of the e-mail, Dr. Mennella used a (P) designation to highlight eight patients whom she believed should be given "priority for beds accommodating wheelchairs at the bedside." PL's Statement of Material Facts (SOMF), Ex. 23 (Mennella E-mail). Flora received a (P) designation. Id.

         From September 4, 2014 to September 23, 2014, Flora was assigned to the RTU in cell 7 in Tier 3A. Cell 7 did not have grab bars near the toilet. The RTU had a policy that a wheelchair-using detainee was permitted to leave his cell to use the ADA-compliant bathroom in the dayroom. Flora says that "[in order] to use the washroom, I have to beat on the door for me to get out of the cell to go to a[n] [] accessible toilet." PL's SOMF, Ex. 17 (Flora Dep.) at 128:20-23. Flora testified that he had difficulty getting the attention of an officer when he wanted to use the bathroom. He explained, "[h]alf of the time there was not any officers in there, due to us being in our cells, so they don't have to stay on the deck. And it was hard to get in contact with an officer to come out of the cell to use the washroom." Id. at 128:23-129:4.

         From April 30, 2014 to March 2016, Flora was required to attend court approximately once a month. He testified that he was unable to use the bathroom when he was transported between the Cook County Jail and the Leighton Courthouse. In two separate grievances, Flora explained that because the holding area lacked grab bars near the toilet, he soiled himself. He also had trouble accessing the courthouse due to a steep ramp. He testified that he was required to navigate his wheelchair up and down the ramp without assistance and that, on one occasion, he hit the courthouse wall.

         Flora filed this lawsuit on February 3, 2015, alleging that the Sheriff violated his rights under Title II of the ADA and the RA.

         Discussion

         To prevail on a summary judgment motion, the movant must demonstrate that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that he is entitled to a judgment in his favor as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making this determination, the Court must "construe all facts and inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Love v. JP Cullen & Sons, Inc., 779 F.3d 697, 701 (7th Cir. 2015). Summary judgment is appropriate "when no genuine issue of material fact exists such that no reasonable jury could find for the nonmovant." Id.

         Flora's motion for partial summary judgment concerns two of his claims under the ADA and RA. First, he claims that he was denied access to the Cook County Jail's toilets and showers on account of his disability. Flora contends that the Sheriff had knowledge of these violations but failed to correct them. Second, Flora claims that he was denied access to the Leighton Courthouse because of his disability. He seeks summary judgment as to liability on both of these claims.

         A. Claims under Title II of the ADA and the RA

         Title II of the ADA provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Likewise, the RA prohibits a "qualified individual with a disability" from being "excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any ...


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