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Theodore v. Lowell General Hospital

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 28, 2017

DINO N. THEODORE and ACCESS WITH SUCCESS, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
LOWELL GENERAL HOSPITAL and CIRCLE HEALTH, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          ALLISON D. BURROUGHS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Dino Theodore and Access With Success, Inc. filed this lawsuit against Lowell General Hospital and Circle Health, Inc., which operates the hospital, alleging that Defendants violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and seeking an order requiring Defendants to remove architectural barriers to wheelchair access at the hospital. Defendants moved for summary judgment on May 26, 2016, and Plaintiffs filed an opposition on June 16, 2016. [ECF Nos. 24, 26]. For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The following undisputed facts are drawn from the parties' statements of undisputed facts, the complaint, and Defendants' answer. [ECF Nos. 1, 9, 25, 27].

         The Lowell General Hospital campus consists of a hospital with 157 patient beds, a building for doctors' offices, and parking. The hospital was sold to the current owners and became known as Lowell General Hospital on or around July 1, 2012. Prior to 2012, the hospital was known as Saints Memorial and was controlled by the Roman Catholic Church, which meant that it was exempt from the accessibility provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Fewer than ten percent of the hospital's patient bedrooms are wheelchair accessible, and fewer than ten percent of the patient bedrooms have an accessible toilet and bathroom, as defined by Section 805 of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The hospital has indicated that the lack of accessible bedrooms and bathrooms is due to the fact that it was exempt from the ADA accessibility requirements prior to 2012. [ECF No. 27-3].

         Plaintiff Dino Theodore is paralyzed and requires the use of a wheelchair for ambulation. On April 11, 2013, Theodore was admitted to the hospital through the emergency room for a fractured hip and femur. He was placed in a double room with a bathroom that was not accessible by wheelchair. Theodore alleges that he experienced certain difficulties due to the lack of an accessible bedroom and an accessible bathroom. [ECF No. 27 at 5-6]. Theodore also claims that it is difficult to navigate a wheelchair from the parking lot to the hospital and the doctors' offices on the campus, that the hospital's x-ray table and public restroom are difficult for him to use, and that the hospital staff has not been trained to handle accessibility issues. Id. at 6-8.

         The complaint alleges four categories of ADA violations at the hospital:

1) patient rooms without adequate turning areas and associated accessible toilet and bathing areas;
2) inaccessible public restrooms;[1]
3) insufficient accessible parking; and
4) lack of “accessible” medical equipment, training, and policies pertaining to the provision of services and medical care to individuals with disabilities.

         The ADA imposes certain obligations to ensure accessibility when “new construction” occurs, 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(1), but the parties agree that no “new construction” has occurred on the hospital campus since July 2012. The ADA imposes other obligations when a building is “altered.” 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(2). The parties dispute whether the hospital has been “altered” since July 2012 such that the hospital would be required to make additional modifications.

         In October and November 2015, the hospital made certain modifications to the parking lot, including adding handrails to walkways and fixing curb ramps near the emergency department entrance. These modifications cost approximately $50, 000.

         The following describes evidence submitted by the parties in support of, or in opposition to, the summary judgment ...


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