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Talevski v. Regents of University of California

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 27, 2015

ANITA TALEVSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JEFFREY T. MILLER, District Judge.

Defendant Regents of the University of California ("Regents") moves for summary judgment on the Rehabilitation Act claim, the only viable claim stated by Plaintiff. Plaintiff Anita Talevski opposes the motion. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(d)(1) the court finds the matters presented appropriate for resolution without oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies summary judgment in part on the Rehabilitation Act claim and grants partial summary judgment on the failure to accommodate claim.

BACKGROUND

On April 22, 2013, Plaintiff commenced this disability rights action by alleging seven causes of action for (1) violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); (2) violation of §504 of the Rehabilitation Act; (3) violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code §51; (4) violation of the Disabled Persons Act, Cal. Civ. Code §54; (5) disability discrimination in violation of Cal. Gov. Code §11135; (6) disability discrimination in violation of Cal. Civ. Code §3345; and (7) violation of the Unfair Business Practices Act, Bus. & Prof Code §17200. (Ct. Dkt. 1). On August 13, 2013, the court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss all claims except the Rehabilitation Act, finding that the Eleventh Amendment barred the claims against Regents. (Ct. Dkt. 7).

Plaintiff's claims arise from a series of events commencing in late 2011 and continuing until early 2012. "Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury early in life and has been disabled ever since." (Compl. ¶5). Plaintiff suffers from bi-polar disorder, receives disability benefits from the State of California, and is a disabled individual within the meaning of the ADA. Id.

In addition to educational programs, the University of California San Diego ("UCSD") also operates recreational programs open to the general public. Plaintiff enrolled in UCSD's Triathlon Program. The coaches in the program were aware of "the nature of Plaintiff's disability." (Compl. ¶10). One day in late 2011 or 2012, Coach Piszkin was running a workout on the track. While coaching Plaintiff, Coach Piszkin allegedly touched Plaintiff in the midriff "in what Plaintiff perceived was an inappropriately and unwelcome familiar manner." (Compl. ¶11). During this same period of time, Plaintiff stopped taking her medications, leading to "occasional emotional outbursts or need for attention." (Compl. ¶14). At about this same time, Plaintiff developed "a harmless yet obsessive affection for another participant in the program who happened to be a Navy Seal." Id. Plaintiff attempted to contact the Navy Seal by sending numerous emails to the Navy and the triathlon coaches.

On January 31, 2012, Plaintiff was informed by the Director of Recreation that her behavior violated "the Athletes and Coaches Code of Conduct for the Masters Sports Program" and was suspended from the program. (Compl. ¶16). The letter provided to Plaintiff stated, among other things:

a. "You regularly blurted out comments during the workout that were inappropriate and loud.

b. You became angry at a fellow swimmer because you felt she spoke to you in a degrading manner.

c. During the course of the workout you would randomly complain about people in your life that were apparently bullying you.

d. You have, on a few occasions, had crying outbursts because of some of your own personal struggles.

e. You had been excessively attempting to contact a fellow runner in one of the workouts which allegedly included sending about 20 emails to the Navy trying to track him down. You sent the coaches several emails trying to get info about him. Your constant emails to the coaches were a form of harassment." (Compl. ¶17).

Plaintiff alleges that her conduct was "the result of a person with manic-depressive disorder as they were manifestations of the despair, irritability, insecurity, and obsessive compulsive behavior that are among the classic symptoms of bi-polar disorder." On February 6, 2012, Plaintiff was expelled from the sports program. (Compl. ¶20).

Regents moves for summary judgment on the Rehabilitation Act claim, arguing that Plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie case and, even if she could, Regents had a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for dismissing Plaintiff from the program - she violated the Code of Conduct. Plaintiff opposes the motion.

DISCUSSION

Legal Standards

A motion for summary judgment shall be granted where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Prison Legal News v. Lehman , 397 F.3d 692, 698 (9th Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the file which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). There is "no express or implied requirement in Rule 56 that the moving party support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim." Id. (emphasis in original). The opposing party cannot rest on the mere allegations or denials of a pleading, but must "go beyond the pleadings and by [the party's] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file' designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (citation omitted). The opposing party also may not rely solely on conclusory allegations unsupported by factual data. Taylor v. List , 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).

The court must examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc. , 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Any doubt as to the existence of any issue of material fact requires denial of the motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, when "the moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence were uncontroverted at trial.'" Houghton v. South , 965 F.2d 1532, 1536 (9th Cir. 1992) ...


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