United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, UNITED STATE DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 19) filed
by Defendants James LeBlanc and the State of Louisiana,
through the Department of Public Safety & Corrections
(collectively, the "Department"). For the reasons
that follow, the Motion (Doc. 19) is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
a disability-discrimination case. (Doc. 1). Wilfred Guy is a
hearing-impaired inmate incarcerated at the Louisiana State
Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. (Id.). He sues
the Department for violating Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
(Id.). He alleges the Department violated these laws
by denying him access to Angola's only teletypewriter
phone, denying him incentive pay, and prohibiting him from
participating in sports, hobbycraft, and rodeo
arrived at Angola in 1987, following his conviction for
second-degree murder. (Doc. 19-3 at p. 8). He was diagnosed
with a hearing impairment in 1996, and he received a hearing
aid around the same time. (Id. at pp. 10-11). He is
not deaf. (Doc. 19-6 at pp. 1-3). But he suffers from
"neural hearing loss" of "an unknown
degree" in "a certain portion of the frequency
range." (Doc. 19-6 at p. 3). He says that he struggles
to hear sounds at a distance. (Doc. 19-3 at p. 12).
a "pocket talker" to communicate. (Docs. 19-1 at
¶ 5; 24-1 at ¶ 5). An audiologist who treated him
concluded that he "appear[ed] to have great benefit
from" the pocket talker because, when using it, he
"responded appropriately to 100% of questions during
[the] history taking portion of [the] visit." (Doc. 19-6
at p. 3). The audiologist did not recommend a teletypewriter
phone; she found that "[a]n amplified telephone w[ould]
be sufficient as long as there is little to no ambient noise
present during telephone calls." (Id.).
worked various jobs at Angola. (Doc. 19-3 at p. 30). For a
time, he performed field work, which he describes as
"hoeing the rows, greens, . .. and ditches."
(Id. at p. 39). He considered the work dangerous
because he could not hear the swinging of sling blades, and
he feared being struck. (Id. at p. 40). He presented
these concerns to one of Angola's doctors, who responded
by placing Guy on a "duty status restriction."
(Doc. 18-10). The restriction, issued in September 2012,
PERMANENT DUTY STATUS: REGULAR DUTY WITH RESTRICTIONS; OUT OF
FIELD, NO KITCHEN, NO SPORTS, NO HOBBYCRAFT, NO RODEO X
(Doc. 18-10). The "out of field" and "no
kitchen" restrictions prohibit Guy from working in the
field and in the kitchen. (Id.). The "no
sports" restriction prohibits Guy from playing sports at
Angola, the "no hobbycraft" restriction prohibits
him from participating in hobbycraft activities, and the
"no rodeo" restriction prohibits him from riding
horses or bulls in the Angola rodeo. (Docs. 19-2 at
¶¶ 8-10; 24-1 at ¶¶ 8-10). Angola
officials updated Guy's duty status in July 2015. (Doc.
19-5 at p. 2). Not much changed: officials merely added an
"away from machinery" restriction. (Id.).
the prison's policies, Directive No. 13-063, forbids
restricted-duty offenders (like Guy) from
"participa[ting] in sports and/or recreational
activities, unless specified by the treating health care
provider." (Doc. 19-13 at p. 3). Despite this policy,
Guy would like to participate in some of the prison's
sports and hobbycraft programs. (Doc. 19-3 at pp. 46-47). So,
in March 2017, he submitted an administrative remedy
procedure form requesting "[a]ccess to sports,
hobbycraft, and rodeo, three programs that my hearing
disability does not prevent me from being able to participate
in." (Doc. 21-13 at p. 4), Prison officials denied the
request about four months later. (Id. at p. 5). But
the prison's physician, Dr. Randy Lavespere, acknowledges
that Guy can safely perform hobbycraft activities like
"leather work" and painting. (Doc. 21-3 at p. 69).
inmates may receive "incentive pay" for work at
hourly rates ranging from $.02 to $1. (Docs. 21-2 at ¶
1; 27-1 at ¶ 1). Guy is capable of performing paid work
at Angola. (Docs. 21-2 at ¶ 13; 27-1 at ¶ 13). But
he did not receive nine months of incentive pay from
2016-2017. (Docs. 21-2 at ¶ 14; 27-1 at ¶ 14). The
reason for that is not clear. (Doc. 21-3 at p. 136). Guy has
received incentive pay since March 2017, when he began
working as a janitor in Angola's mattress factory. (Docs.
19-2 at ¶ 39; 24-1 at ¶ 39). He now works as a
"walk orderly," a paid position he considers
"appropriate to his disability." (Doc. 1 at ¶
March 6, 2018, Guy sued the Department for violating his
rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act,
42 U.S.C. § 12132 ("ADA"), and § 504 of
the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a)
("RA"), by denying him access to a teletypewriter
phone and prohibiting him from participating in sports and
hobbycraft. (Id. at ¶¶ 77-78). He alleges
that the discrimination was intentional, and he seeks
declaratory relief, a permanent injunction requiring the
Department to comply with the ADA and RA, nominal and
compensatory damages, as well as costs and attorney's
fees. (Id. at ¶¶ 81, 82, 86).
the Department moves for summary judgment. (Doc. 19).
Court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is "genuine" if
"the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
"material" if it "might affect the outcome of
the suit." Id. at 248. In ruling on a motion
for summary judgment, the Court "view[s] the facts and
draw[s] reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party." Duncan v. Wal-Mart La.,
L.L.C., 863 F.3d 406, 409 (5th Cir. 2017).
Department's motion implicates two federal laws: Title II
of the ADA and § 504 of the RA. (Docs. 19, 21).
"The ADA is a 'broad mandate' of
'comprehensive character' and 'sweeping
purpose' intended 'to eliminate discrimination
against disabled individuals, and to integrate them into the
economic and social mainstream of American life.'"
Frame v. City of Arlington, 657 F.3d 215, 223 (5th
Cir. 2011) (en banc) (quoting PGA Tour, Inc. v.
Martin, 532 U.S. 661, 675 (2001)). Title II, in
particular, "focuses on disability discrimination in the
provision of public services." Frame, 657 F.3d
at 224. Section 504 of the RA complements Title II by
"prohibit[ing] disability discrimination by recipients
of federal funding." Id.
laws "are judged under the same legal standards, and the
same remedies are available under both." Kemp v.
Holder, 610 F.3d 231, 234 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing
Delano-Pyle v. Victoria Cnty., Tex., 302 F.3d 567,
574 (5th Cir. 2002)). Accordingly, the Court analyzes
Guy's ADA and RA claims under one rubric.
Department first contends that a one-year limitations period
applies and that all claims that accrued before July 12, 2016
are time-barred. (Doc. 19 at pp. 1-2). It next contends that
Guy cannot come forward with evidence sufficient to support
his ADA and RHA claims; that Guy cannot recover compensatory
damages because he cannot show a concomitant physical injury;
and that Guy cannot establish a right to injunctive relief.
(Id.). Guy rejoins that his claims are governed by
the four-year catch-all limitations period and that material
factual disputes preclude summary judgment. (Doc. 24). The
Court considers timeliness first. A. Timeliness The parties
dispute the limitations period that applies. (Docs. 19, 21).
The Department urges the Court to apply the one-year
limitation period governing delictual actions under Louisiana
law. See LA. CIV. CODE art. 3492. Guy, on the other hand,
asks the Court to apply a four-year catch-all limitations
period under federal ...