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Bennett v. Dart

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

September 23, 2019

PRESTON BENNETT, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS DART, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN ROBERT BLAKEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Preston Bennett sues Defendants Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart and Cook County. He alleges that Defendants violated Section 202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Rehab Act), 29 U.S.C. § 794(a), in connection with their shower and toilet facilities in Division 10 of the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC). Plaintiff moves to certify the following class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3):

All inmates housed in Division 10 at the Cook County Department of Corrections from June 27, 2016 to the date of entry of judgment, who were prescribed either a walker, crutch, or cane by the medical staff and were denied an accommodation for toileting and showering.

[27] at 1. For the reasons explained below, this Court denies Plaintiff’s motion without prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff-an amputee who relies upon crutches to ambulate-is a former detainee at CCDOC who seeks, individually and on behalf of the proposed class, injunctive relief as well as monetary damages. [6] ¶¶ 2-10, 7; [27] (Ex. 4) at 2. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants’ failure to provide grab bars in Division 10’s shower and toilet facilities, as well as a fixed bench in Division 10’s shower facilities, deprived him, and other detainees prescribed a crutch, cane, or walker, of rights guaranteed under Section 202 of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehab Act. [6] ¶¶ 37-38.[1]

         Plaintiff entered CCDOC on March 29, 2018. Id. ¶ 2. After receiving a medical intake evaluation, medical staff prescribed Plaintiff crutches and entered an order to that effect in CCDOC’s management system, known as C-COMS. Id. ¶ 10; [27] (Ex. 5) at 1. Defendants assigned Plaintiff to CCDOC’s Division 10, which routinely houses detainees with physical disabilities; he remained in Division 10 until his release on July 23, 2018. [27] (Ex. 6).

         Division 10’s shower facilities do not have grab bars or a fixed bench. [27] (Ex. 2) at 58:2-16. CCDOC instead provides a portable chair, available upon request. [27] (Ex. 2) at 56:6-21. Division 10 maintains four portable chairs total for the inmates housed in that division. [73] (Ex. 1) at 35:12-14. The chair has small wheels, handles, and netting on its back. [73] (Ex. 2). Plaintiff testified that the portable chair had a sign directing users: “Do Not Use Without Assistance.” [66] (Ex. 1) at 80:21-81:9. According to Plaintiff, no staff member ever assisted him in using it. Id.

         From March 29, 2018 until April 5, 2018, Defendants assigned Plaintiff to Tier 4 within Division 10. [27] (Ex. 6). Plaintiff testified that Defendants did not make the portable chair available on Tier 4. [66] (Ex. 1) at 82:11–83:23. Following his reassignment to Tier 2 on April 5, 2018, Plaintiff first showered using the following method:

I would go ask the officer was the chair there. If the chair wasn’t there, I’ll ask him can he go get the chair for me. He will slide the chair into the dayroom. I will put my crutches on the wall and grab hold of the chair and scoot on it as if it was a skateboard or a scooter into the shower area. I would then turn around and sit on it, wash up what I could, stand up, hold on to it, finish washing up, rinse off, and repeat the process in reverse to get the chair back to the officer.

Id. at 16:20-17:7. According to Plaintiff, sometimes when he requested the chair, it would already be in use in another wing, and therefore he waited until it became available. Id. at 81:20-82:10.

         With respect to Division 10’s toilet facilities, Plaintiff testified that neither his various cells in Division 10, nor the “dayroom” bathroom, contained grab bars. Id. at 15:8-16:6. Evidence presented by Plaintiff suggests that at times, CCDOC used the portable chair as a toilet chair, in addition to a shower chair, to accommodate disabled inmates. See, e.g., [73] (Ex. 2). According to Plaintiff, when using the bathroom in Division 10, he used the following processes:

I usually use my crutches to lower myself. And use the wall and my crutches to – or whatever is closest to the toilet depending on which toilet I’m at to raise myself. And if I’m out in the dayroom, I will have to use the wall or the toilet ...

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