United States District Court, C.D. California
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
O. CARTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
trial on this matter was held on July 23-26, 2019.
action arises out of a dispute regarding admission of
Plaintiff C.L. to National Treatment Center
(“NTC”) program at Defendant Del Amo Hospital
(“Hospital” or “Del Amo” or
“the facility”). Plaintiff has been voluntarily
admitted to the NTC program at Del Amo Hospital on numerous
occasions, due to persistent mental health conditions
including post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”)
and dissociative identity disorder (“DID”). On at
least seven occasions, Plaintiff sought to bring her dog,
Aspen, with her during her inpatient stay at the Hospital.
Plaintiff argues that Del Amo refused to allow Plaintiff to
bring Aspen into the facility with her, in violation of state
and federal law. Plaintiff argues that Aspen was a service
animal on all occasions, and continues to be a service
animal. Defendant Del Amo Hospital maintains that Aspen is
not a service animal, and even if Aspen is a service animal,
that the facility was not required to allow the dog into the
Hospital because doing so would cause a fundamental
Court issues the following findings of fact and conclusions
of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52. To the
extent that any findings of fact are included in the
Conclusions of Law section, they shall be deemed findings of
fact, and to the extent that any conclusions of law are
included in the Findings of Fact section, they shall be
deemed conclusions of law.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff C.L. has a Master's degree in speech-language
pathology and holds a PhD in Education with an emphasis in
disability studies. Until 2011, when her mental health issues
began preventing her from working, C.L. was a full-time
public school speech-language pathologist. Trial Transcript,
July 23, 2019 (“Transcript Day 1”), Vol. I (Dkt.
174) at 56:1-59:15.
Plaintiff C.L. has been diagnosed with Complex Post-Trauma
Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and Dissociative
Identity Disorder (“DID”) due to a childhood
history of severe trauma, including physical, sexual, and
emotional abuse. C.L. also has major depressive disorder and
anxiety, though these disorders may be symptoms of PTSD.
Transcript Day 1, Vol. I at 48:18-21, 54:10-55:23.
3. As a
result of her mental health conditions, C.L. experiences
hypervigilance, anxiety, flashbacks, intense nightmares,
self-harming behaviors, dissociation, and suicidal ideation.
Transcript Day 1, Vol. I at 50:10-51:18; Trial Transcript,
July 24, 2019 (“Transcript Day 2”), Vol. II at
10: 4-10; Transcript Day 2, Vol. I at 20:23-21:13.
described hypervigilance as a heightened awareness of what is
going on around her, which she can experience when she is
away from her home. Transcript Day I, Vol. I at 51-52.
C.L.'s disabling conditions negatively affect her
functioning; for instance, C.L. finds it anxiety-producing to
undress or shower, and finds it difficult to go into public
places such as grocery stores to shop. Transcript Day 2, Vol.
I at 10:14-12:11.
Defendant Del Amo Hospital (“Defendant” or
“Del Amo”) is a psychiatric hospital located at
23700 Camino Del Sol in Torrance, California. Answer (Dkt.
33) ¶ 6.
National Treatment Center Program (“NTC Program”)
at Del Amo is a specialized inpatient program for the purpose
of trauma stabilization and resolution. Trial Transcript July
25, 2109 (“Transcript Day 3”), Vol. III at
32:4-12; Exhibit 118, National Treatment Center for Trauma
Recovery Program Patient Handbook.
Michael Foust is C.L.'s treating, outpatient
psychologist. Exhibit 60, Deposition of Michael Foust, at
10:8-16. Dr. Foust recommended that C.L. go to Del Amo due to
its treatment program. Exhibit 60 at 33-34.
NTC Program involves programming all day, whereas C.L.'s
sessions with Dr. Foust occur for one hour, twice per week.
Transcript Day 2, Vol. I at 73:20-74:2.
Plaintiff voluntarily checked into the NTC program on seven
occasions from September 2015 through August 2017. Order
Denying Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Granting
in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiff's Partial Motion
for Summary Judgment (“MSJ Order”) (Dkt. 80) at
C.L.'s Dog, Aspen
C.L. began to consider getting a service dog in January 2012.
Transcript Day 2, Vol. I at 18:9-21.
C.L. considered purchasing a training service dog through an
agency, but the lowest price she could find was $15, 000,
which she could not afford. Transcript Day 2, Vol. I at
an email to C.L. in early August 2013, Dr. Foust indicated
that he believed a companion dog would be sufficient for her
needs. Transcript Day 2, Vol. II at 11:14- 24.
C.L. took ownership of her dog, Aspen, in August 2013, when
Aspen was eight weeks old. Transcript Day 2, Vol. I at
Training of Aspen
When Aspen was three months old, Plaintiff attended a puppy
class at Wags and Wiggles. Transcript Day 2, Vol. I at
32:12-18. Wags and Wiggles does not conduct training specific
to service dogs, and is not certified in service dog
training. Transcript Day 2, Vol. II at 18:21-19:10.
Plaintiff then took a basic obedience class at Wags and