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Crowell v. Beeler

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 30, 2017

E. BEELER, Defendant


         This is a failure to provide reasonable accommodation case brought by Plaintiff F.L. Odinson Crowell (“Crowell”), a prisoner at the California Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility in Corcoran, against Defendant E. Beeler (“Beeler”), a correctional sergeant. Crowell alleges that he was denied reasonable accommodation for paruresis (aka bashful bladder syndrome), in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act. Beeler now moves for summary judgment on Crowell's claim against her. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.


         Summary judgment is proper when it is demonstrated that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Fortyune v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc., 364 F.3d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 2004). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying the portions of the declarations (if any), pleadings, and discovery that demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); United States v. Kapp, 564 F.3d 1103, 1114 (9th Cir. 2009). A dispute is “genuine” as to a material fact if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Freecycle Sunnyvale v. Freecycle Network, 626 F.3d 509, 514 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the movant. Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. Where the non-moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant may prevail by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party's claim or by merely pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. See James River Ins. Co. v. Herbert Schenk, P.C., 523 F.3d 915, 923 (9th Cir. 2008); Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. If a moving party fails to carry its burden of production, then “the non-moving party has no obligation to produce anything, even if the non-moving party would have the ultimate burden of persuasion.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1105-06 (9th Cir. 2000). If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103. The opposing party cannot “‘rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading' but must instead produce evidence that ‘sets forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Estate of Tucker v. Interscope Records, 515 F.3d 1019, 1030 (9th Cir. 2008).

         The opposing party's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Narayan v. EGL, Inc., 616 F.3d 895, 899 (9th Cir. 2010). While a “justifiable inference” need not be the most likely or the most persuasive inference, a "justifiable inference" must still be rational or reasonable. See Narayan, 616 F.3d at 899. Summary judgment may not be granted “where divergent ultimate inferences may reasonably be drawn from the undisputed facts.” Fresno Motors, LLC v. Mercedes Benz USA, LLC, 771 F.3d 1119, 1125 (9th Cir. 2015); see also Holly D. v. Cal. Inst. of Tech., 339 F.3d 1158, 1175 (9th Cir. 2003). Inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Fitzgerald v. El Dorado Cnty., 94 F.Supp.3d 1155, 1163 (E.D. Cal. 2015); Sanders v. City of Fresno, 551 F.Supp.2d 1149, 1163 (E.D. Cal. 2008). “A genuine issue of material fact does not spring into being simply because a litigant claims that one exists or promises to produce admissible evidence at trial.” Del Carmen Guadalupe v. Agosto, 299 F.3d 15, 23 (1st Cir. 2002); see Bryant v. Adventist Health System/West, 289 F.3d 1162, 1167 (9th Cir. 2002). The parties have the obligation to particularly identify material facts, and the court is not required to scour the record in search of a genuine disputed material fact. Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010). Further, a “motion for summary judgment may not be defeated . . . by evidence that is ‘merely colorable' or ‘is not significantly probative.'” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Hardage v. CBS Broad. Inc., 427 F.3d 1177, 1183 (9th Cir. 2006). If the nonmoving party fails to produce evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103.


         Crowell is an inmate of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) and at all times relevant to this litigation, was housed at the California Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility (“CSATF”) in Corcoran, California. DSUF 1. Crowell states that he has suffered from paruresis his entire life. Crowell Dec. at 2. Crowell further states that he is not able to urinate in front of others and needs to be in a private area away from others in order to urinate.[2] Id. Crowell has never been physically evaluated or diagnosed with paruresis by any medically trained and licensed professional. DSUF 5. Crowell admits this fact, but claims he has been denied any type of evaluation by either Dr. Kokor, his primary care provider in prison, or Mr. Horowitz, a clinical social worker at the prison. PRDSUF 5; Crowell Dec. at 19.

         Crowell has been diagnosed with, and currently receives medical treatment for, an enlarged prostate. DSUF 6. Crowell's enlarged prostate has been successfully managed for a lengthy period of time by the prescription drug Terazosin. DSUF 7. Crowell also maintains that he has managed his enlarged prostate by his own diligent efforts to take care of his health and by taking additional supplements. PRDSUF 7. Crowell has spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to treat his enlarged prostate. Crowell Dec. at 22. Crowell has been taking Saw Palmetto for years to alleviate the symptoms of his enlarged prostate. Id. Crowell states that he has “been prescribed Terazosin since May 8, 2009, for my enlarged prostrate which inhibits free urine flow and bladder function.” Crowell Dec. at 3.

         There is no record, document, or notation contained within Crowell's CDCR medical records supporting the contention that Crowell requires a medical accommodation in the form of an alternative drug testing method in lieu of the standard urinalysis testing method. DSUF 9. Crowell admits this fact, but claims this is only because his request for an accommodation has been ignored. PRDSUF 9.

         On January 18, 2014, Beeler was informed by Officer H. Perez that Crowell had verbally requested an accommodation for the standard urine sample collection procedure due to an alleged medical disability. DSUF 10. Crowell informed custody staff that he had an enlarged prostate and paruresis. Crowell Dec. at 4. The specific accommodation Crowell asked for was to provide his sample outside the presence of others. Id. Beeler directed that Crowell provide a urine sample in the standard manner provided by the CDCR Department Operations Manual. DSUF 17. Beeler told Crowell that: “If you don't do this it's the same as a dirty test. You will be written up, placed on C status when you're found guilty and you will lose your privileges.” Crowell Dec. at 8. Thereafter, Crowell provided his urine sample within approximately seventy minutes, which was within the three-hour time limit allotted for a sample's timely submission. DSUF 18. Crowell maintains that while he was able to provide the sample, he was able to do so only after undergoing excruciating pain, and that the pain lasted for several weeks after January 18, 2014. PRDSUF 18; Crowell Dec. at 11.

         As a member of CSATF custody staff, Beeler is not permitted to review an inmate's CDCR medical records. DSUF 14. Aside from basic First Responder training, Beeler possesses no medical training and is unable to diagnose any medical disability that an inmate may suffer from, or prescribe medical accommodations that an inmate may require. DSUF 15.

         Beeler maintains that in response to Crowell's request, she reviewed the documents in her possession provided by CSATF medical personnel, which memorialize which CSATF inmates require an accommodation to perform their various life tasks. DUSF 11. Beeler further maintains that she reviewed whether Crowell had been provided or prescribed any medical accommodation by CSATF medical personnel in regards to his providing a drug-testing sample, and that the documents she reviewed on January 18, 2014 indicated that, as of that date, Crowell had not been prescribed or given any such accommodation which would permit her to allow Crowell to either (1) provide a urine sample which deviated from the requirement that the collecting staff member directly observe the flow of urine from Crowell's body into the collection bottle; or (2) provide a hair or blood sample instead of a urine sample. DSUF 12-13. Crowell maintains that Beeler did not review any documents prior to denying his request for a reasonable accommodation, asserting that while he was talking to Beeler, she did not leave to call medical, nor did he observe her reviewing any documents about his condition.[3] Crowell Dec. at 12; PRDSUF 12-13.

         After the urine test on January 18, 2014, Crowell attempted to discuss paruresis with Dr. Kokor. Crowell Dec. at 15. Dr. Kokor is a physician and surgeon licensed to practice medicine in California, and employed by the CDCR. Kokor Dec. at 1. Dr. Kokor has served as Crowell's primary care provider from Crowell's arrival at CSATF on June 24, 2013 through the present. Id. Dr. Kokor has reviewed Crowell's medical records from January 2008 through March 24, 2016. Id. at 2. Based on this review, Dr. Kokor confirms that Crowell's medical records do not indicate any diagnosis of paruresis. Id. at 5. Further, based on Dr. Kokor's review of Crowell's medical records, Dr. Kokor's interactions with and treatment of Crowell as his primary care provider, and Dr. Kokor's medical training and experience, it is Dr. Kokor's medical opinion that Crowell: “does not suffer from and has not been diagnosed by any CDCR medical professional as suffering from paruresis . . . .” Id. at 6. Further, Dr. Kokor stated that it is his medical opinion that: “Crowell's enlarged prostate does not hinder, inhibit, or in any [way] prevent him from providing a urine sample, upon request, within the three hour period provided by Section 52010.20 of the CDCR Department Operations Manual, and he did not and does not require a medical accommodation in the form of an alternative drug-testing method in lieu of the standard urinalysis testing method . . . .” Id. at 6.

         Crowell appealed to the Reasonable Accommodation Panel (“Panel”) within CSATF, requesting to be allowed to provide a blood test instead of a urine test. Crowell Dec., Ex. A. The matter was reviewed by the Panel on December 10, 2014. The Panel consists of the ADA Coordinator, the Appeals Coordinator, the Health Care Appeals Coordinator, and the Chief Medical Officer (clinician). Id. “The [Panel] determined that [Crowell's] request for an accommodation to provide a blood test instead of a urine test for random drug testing was not medically necessary. Pursuant to Dr. Enenmoh, Chief Physician and Surgeon, [Crowell's] current medical condition does not prevent him from being able to produce urine for random drug testing.” Id.

         Crowell then submitted a second-level appeal to CSATF, but because Crowell “provided no information or evidence at the Second Level of Review to modify the findings of the [Panel], ” the appeal was denied. Id. Crowell finally submitted a third-level appeal to the Director of CSATF. Id. The Appeals Examiner reviewed the Panel's findings and noted that Crowell “provided no information or evidence, which would warrant a modification to the institution's decision.” Id. Crowell's third-level appeal was denied on April 27, 2015. Id.

         On November 3, 2014, Crowell filed a complaint against Beeler in both her individual and official capacities, alleging one cause of action for failure to provide reasonable accommodation under both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. Crowell seeks injunctive relief in the form of a reasonable accommodation (preferably in the form of a blood test for drug testing), costs of suit, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.


         Defendant's Argument[4]

         Beeler argues, inter alia, that Crowell's ADA failure to accommodate claim fails because he is not disabled. Crowell has not been diagnosed with paruresis, nor is there any evidence from a medical professional that Crowell requires any accommodation as an alternative to the standard urinalysis drug testing method. While Crowell has been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate, this condition does not prohibit Crowell from providing a urine sample upon request and within a three-hour time period. Beeler argues that Crowell admits that he never sought any medical treatment for paruresis until after January 18, 2014, which is the date upon which his claim against Beeler is founded. Additionally, Beeler argues that Crowell's claim for injunctive relief against her in her individual capacity is not legally viable, because the ADA bars such relief.

         Plaintiff's ...

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