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Denying Work Release to HIV Positive Amputee May Violate ADA

The plaintiff alleged that he was denied access to shock incarceration because he is an HIV-positive amputee, and was also repeatedly denied work release. He also claimed that he was deprived of his personal wheelchair, after having it in prison for 11 months, because the rims and spokes posed a security risk, and was provided a substitute wheelchair that had neither a fixed frame nor movable foot and arm rests, which he had great difficulty entering and exiting, resulting in extreme back pain and one fall with injury. After several months and a complaint that the confiscation violated the Milburn decree, he got his wheelchair back. He also complained about denial of adequate medical care.

The plaintiff's release from prison moots his injunctive claim.

Defendants moved to dismiss some claims for non-exhaustion, the plaintiff said in his opposition papers (not his complaint) that indeed he had grieved and appealed all his claims. Since non-exhaustion is an affirmative defense, defendants bear the burden of proving it. At 197: "In the face of plaintiff's allegations that he exhausted his administrative remedies, defendants have provided only conclusory statements and have thus failed to meet their burden" Id.: "Second, plaintiff is no longer incarcerated He no longer has access to the Inmate Grievance Program and is now seeking only monetary damages Thus, there are no longer any administrative remedies available to plaintiff" Defendants concede that the plaintiff could simply refile without exhausting if his case were dismissed, so judicial efficiency as well as defendants' failure to meet their burden supports denial of the motion to dismiss.

The defendants did not dispute that the plaintiff was disabled, excluded from programs he was otherwise qualified for, and DOCS receives federal funds; they claimed he was denied access to shock and work release because of his criminal record and unsatisfactory disciplinary adjustment. However, plaintiffs' allegations that these reasons were pretextual and that the real reasons were his HIV status and amputation were sufficient to state a claim under the disability statutes.

Individual defendants may not be held liable under either the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act.

The plaintiff's allegation of a five-month deprivation of his wheelchair and failure to treat the severe back pain resulting from his use of the standard wheelchair states an Eighth Amendment claim. He alleged severe and unnecessary pain including injury from falling from the standard wheelchair. The temporary nature of the deprivation and the pain call the plaintiff's claim into question but it cannot be dismissed at the pleading stage.

The plaintiff's allegations that the superintendent and a Regional Health Administrator directly refused to allow his wheelchair to be repaired and ordered its confiscation sufficiently plead personal involvement.

At 202: "Because defendants could not have been deliberately indifferent and objectively reasonable at the same time," they are not entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity. (This may be overruled by Saucier v. Katz.) See: Hallett v. New York State Dept. of Correctional Services, 109 F.Supp.2d 190 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).

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Related legal case

Hallett v. New York State Dept. of Correctional Services