Earl v. Espejo et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order written by the Honorable Gary Feinerman on 8/28/2017.Mailed notice.(jlj, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
ANTONIO ESPEJO, JUAN GALI, ARTURO
GUZMAN, JOSEPH R. PAOLETTI, EDDIE HAYNIE,
EDWARD M. MOSER, COLIN F. O’SHEA, JORGE
SOLIVAN, DOUGLAS STRAKA, MICHAEL
CARRASCO, MIGUEL BAHENA, ARTEMIO
VARGAS, DORA HINDMAN, TRACY WALCZAK,
AARON COBB, RYAN P. BROWN, EVELYN F.
REDDING, ROLDAN SOLIS, TORREY BARNES,
DEVAN H. RICHARDSON, and CITY OF CHICAGO,
17 C 195
Judge Gary Feinerman
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Clyde Earl filed this suit against the City of Chicago, eighteen Chicago Police
Department (“CPD”) officers, and two detention aides, bringing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, and § 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a), for the alleged failure to accommodate his mental illness
during his arrest and subsequent detention. Doc. 23. The City moves to dismiss the ADA and
Rehabilitation Act claims (which are brought only against it) under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. 34. The motion is denied.
In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court assumes the truth of the operative
complaint’s well-pleaded factual allegations, though not its legal conclusions. See Zahn v. N.
Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must also consider
“documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred
to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice,” along with additional facts set
forth in Earl’s brief opposing dismissal, so long as those additional facts “are consistent with the
pleadings.” Phillips v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 714 F.3d 1017, 1019-20 (7th Cir. 2013). The
facts are set forth as favorably to Earl as those materials allow. See Pierce v. Zoetis, Inc., 818
F.3d 274, 277 (7th Cir. 2016). In setting forth those facts at the pleading stage, the court does
not vouch for their accuracy. See Jay E. Hayden Found. v. First Neighbor Bank, N.A., 610 F.3d
382, 384 (7th Cir. 2010).
Earl was diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder in the 1990s. Doc. 38
at 1, 6-7. He experiences psychosis, hallucinations, depression, and paranoia when he is not
treated with psychotropic medication. Doc. 23 at ¶ 8; Doc. 38 at 1. On January 12, 2015, Earl
was experiencing severe symptoms of his mental illness and attempted to take a bus to the
hospital for treatment. Doc. 23 at ¶ 10. The driver sought assistance from five CPD officers,
telling them that Earl was “causing a disturbance.” Id. at ¶ 11. The officers found Earl
displaying obvious and severe signs of mental illness. Id. at ¶ 13. Earl told the officers that he
was mentally ill and needed treatment, but the officers acted aggressively and did not give him
the chance to explain himself. Id. at ¶ 14; Doc. 38 at 1-2. When Earl did not acquiesce to a
search, one officer struck and tackled him. Doc. 23 at ¶¶ 14-15. Six more officers arrived to
assist with the arrest. Id. at ¶ 19. After he was restrained, Earl attempted to explain his condition
to the second group of officers, but was struck again. Id. at ¶¶ 20-22.
The officers took Earl to the police station even though they knew or should have known
that he was experiencing a mental health crisis and needed immediate treatment. Id. at ¶ 25.
Earl was held at the station for two days without receiving medical attention. Id. at ¶ 26. None
of the arresting officers, assisting officers, or transporting officers took him to a medical facility,
called for someone trained in crisis intervention, or gave him the chance to explain his condition.
Id. at ¶ 34; Doc. 38 at 10. While detained, Earl continued to show obvious signs that he was in a
mental health crisis and needed immediate treatment. Doc. 23 at ¶¶ 30-32. Earl in fact told the
officers that he was suffering from symptoms of a medical illness and needed medical attention.
Id. at ¶ 30. Detention staff did not transport Earl to a medical facility, attempt to give him his
medication, or arrange for a mental health evaluation. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.
Title II of the ADA provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by
reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the
services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such
entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Similarly, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides that “[n]o
otherwise qualified individual with a disability … shall, solely by reason of her or his disability,
be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination
under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance … .” 29 U.S.C. § 794(a).
“Other than some minor differences not relevant here, the statutes are coextensive,” so the court
will for ease of exposition refer to both statutes simply as the ADA. CTL ex rel. Trebatoski v.
Ashland Sch. Dist., 743 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2014); see also Discovery House, Inc. v. Consol.
City of Indianapolis, 319 F.3d 277, 279 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[T]he ADA and the [Rehabilitation
Act] … run along the same path and can be treated in the same way … .”).
“To establish a violation of Title II of the ADA, the plaintiff must prove  that he is a
qualified individual with a disability,  that he was denied the benefits of the services,
programs, or activities of a public entity or otherwise subjected to discrimination by such an
entity, and  that the denial or discrimination was by reason of his disability.” Wagoner v.
Lemmon, 778 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Love v.
Westville Corr. Ctr., 103 F.3d 558, 560 (7th Cir. 1996) (same). Defendants assert that Earl’s
allegations fail to satisfy all three elements.
As to the first, the City argues that Earl has not properly alleged that he is disabled. Doc.
34 at 4-5. The ADA provides that a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one
or more major life activities” qualifies as a “disability.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A); see Carothers
v. Cnty. of Cook, 808 F.3d 1140, 1147 (7th Cir. 2015). “Major life activities” include
“concentrating, thinking, [and] communicating.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2).
Earl alleges that he suffers from schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Doc. 38 at 6.
That allegation alone suffices to plead that Earl is disabled. See Brown v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., 254
F.3d 654, 656 (7th Cir. 2001) (“Schizoaffective disorder can … cause hallucinations,
disorganized thinking, delusions, obsessions, social withdrawal, and depressive episodes.”);
Palmer v. Circuit Ct. of Cook Cnty., 117 F.3d 351, 352 (7th Cir. 1997) (noting that schizophrenia
as a “mental illness that is … disabling”); Bultemeyer v. Fort Wayne Cmty. Sch., 100 F.3d 1281,
1284 (7th Cir.1996) (holding that a plaintiff with paranoid schizophrenia was disabled under the
ADA). Moreover, Earl’s allegations indicate that his illness substantially limited his ability to
engage in the major life activities of concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Doc. 23 at
¶¶ 8, 10 (alleging that Earl’s mental illness caused “severe symptoms, including psychosis,
hallucinations, depression, and paranoia” and that he was experiencing those symptoms on the
day of his arrest), 31 (alleging that Earl “was confused, disorganized, suspicious, and paranoid”
as a result of his mental illness while at the police station). Earl therefore has adequately alleged
that he is a qualified individual with a disability.
As to the second element, the City contends that Earl was not “denied the benefits of [its]
services, programs, or activities … or otherwise subjected to discrimination” because it was not
required to provide Earl with access to mental health treatment during his arrest or detention.
Doc. 34 at 5-7. Focusing initially on the arrest, the City argues that Earl was not entitled to an
accommodation at that point because the ADA does not apply to exigent circumstances. Id. at 56. In support, the City cites Sallenger v. City of Springfield, 2005 WL 2001502 (C.D. Ill. Aug. 4,
2005), which held that “[a]ny requirement to accommodate [the plaintiff’s] disability during the
course of his arrest would come into play once the exigent circumstances surrounding the
struggle ceased.” Id. at *31. Sallenger in turn cited Hainze v. Richards, 207 F.3d 795 (5th Cir.
2000), which held that “Title II does not apply to an officer’s on-the-street responses to reported
disturbances or other similar incidents … prior to the officer’s securing the scene and ensuring
that there is no threat to human life.” Id. at 801. Other authority, however, recognizes that there
may be some circumstances where the ADA’s accommodation requirement applies during an
arrest. See Spencer v. Dawson, 2006 WL 3253574, at *11 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 7, 2006) (“The Village
also argues that Title II does not apply to an officer’s on-the-street responses to reported
disturbances … [citing Hainze and Sallenger]. The court will not attempt to predict what the
Seventh Circuit might hold when presented with this issue as it must accept Spencer’s version of
events at this stage in the proceedings. Viewing the record from Spencer’s perspective, there
was no exigent threat to officers or third parties because Spencer, while agitated and angry, was
not threatening anyone’s safety.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).
There is no need to run this issue to ground at the pleading stage because Earl’s ADA
claim covers not only his arrest, but also what happened following the arrest, when any exigency
had subsided. Earl alleges that, while in custody at the police station, he requested and was
denied medical treatment. Medical treatment is a “service” under the ADA. Pa. Dep’t of Corr.
v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206, 210 (1998) (observing that “prisons provide inmates with … medical
‘services,’ … which at least theoretically ‘benefit’ the prisoners (and any of which disabled
prisoners could be ‘excluded from participation in’)” for purposes of the ADA). And “[o]nce an
arrestee with a disability is in custody, the police have a duty to reasonably accommodate the
arrestee’s disability.” Paine ex rel. Eilman v. Johnson, 2010 WL 785397, at *8 (N.D. Ill. Feb.
The City submits that Earl’s request for medical attention constitutes “special treatment
as opposed to an accommodation.” Doc. 34 at 6. According to the City, “providing a mental
health evaluation or psychiatric treatment to someone in custody is not something that is offered
to all arrestees by the CPD, nor is it part of the regular CPD processing procedures (booking;
fingerprinting; etc.) conducted with arrestees while in custody.” Id. at 7. That argument is not
responsive to Earl’s allegations. Earl does not claim that he was denied a particular type of
treatment that every arrestee is given; rather, he alleges that “despite making access to medical
care available to detainees, the City did not [reasonably] accommodate his specific disability by
providing him with access to such care.” Doc. 38 at 13 (emphasis added).
“Whether a requested accommodation is reasonable is highly fact-specific, and
determined on a case-by-case basis by balancing the cost to the defendant and the benefit to the
plaintiff.” Dadian v. Vill. of Wilmette, 269 F.3d 831, 838 (7th Cir. 2001); see also Wis. Cmty.
Sevs., Inc. v. City of Milwaukee, 465 F.3d 737, 752 (7th Cir. 2006). Earl’s allegations allow the
plausible inference that at least some medical attention would have been a reasonable
accommodation during his detention; any further “fact-specific … balancing” at the pleading
stage would be premature. Dadian, 269 F.3d at 838; see also McWright v. Alexander, 982 F.2d
222, 227 (7th Cir. 1992) (“As for the balance between ‘reasonable accommodation’ and ‘undue
hardship,’ these matters are questions of fact and thus generally inappropriate for resolution on
the pleadings.”). Thus, Earl has sufficiently pleaded that he was denied the benefits of the
services of a public entity after his arrest. See Paine, 2010 WL 785397, at *4 (recognizing a
“cognizable claim that the City had failed to provide [a bipolar arrestee] with a reasonable
accommodation in the form of access to medical or mental health assistance, in violation of Title
II” while she was detained in CPD custody).
Finally, Earl’s complaint adequately pleads the third element of his ADA claim, that the
denial of benefits was by reason of his disability. “[I]t is possible to demonstrate discrimination
on the basis of disability by a defendant’s refusal to make a reasonable accommodation.”
Washington v. Ind. High Sch. Athletic Ass’n, Inc., 181 F.3d 840, 848 (7th Cir. 1999); see also
CTL, 743 F.3d at 528-29 (recognizing that discrimination by reason of disability may be
established by showing that: “(1) the defendant intentionally acted on the basis of the disability,
(2) the defendant refused to provide a reasonable modification, or (3) the defendant’s rule
disproportionately impacts disabled people”) (emphasis added); Wis. Cmty. Sevs., 465 F.3d at
751 (“[F]ailure to accommodate is an independent basis for liability under the ADA.”). Here,
Earl alleges that the City failed to reasonably accommodate his mental illness by denying his
requests for medical attention. That is sufficient at the pleading stage to allege discrimination by
reason of his disability. See Paine, 2010 WL 785397, at *9 (allowing an ADA claim to proceed
on the theory that the defendants “fail[ed] to reasonably accommodate [the plaintiff’s] known,
and arguably manifest, mental illness by taking her for mental health care while she was in CPD
The City’s partial motion to dismiss is denied. The City shall answer the complaint in its
entirety by September 18, 2017.
August 28, 2017
United States District Judge
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