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$35,000 Paid by Santa Clara County to Amputee Prisoner Who Slipped Off Crutches in Jail Shower Not Outfitted for the Disabled

By Chuck Sharman

An agreement was reached on December 5, 2018, in which Santa Clara County, California, agreed to pay $35,000 to an amputee who slipped off his crutches while attempting to shower while imprisoned at the county jail.

The man, Adan Rodriguez-Pena, had just one leg when he was taken into the Elmwood Facility of the county jail in 2017. There, on August 25, 2017, he was attempting to shower on his crutches because the jail showers were not equipped for handicapped prisoners.

Typically, in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, handicapped-equipped showers are wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair and have a flat entry with no threshold or lip for that purpose, too, as well as a seat and grab bars.

In the non-compliant shower at the Elmwood Facility, Rodriguez-Pena slipped off his crutches and fell to the shower floor, suffering injuries to his wrist, back and head. Afterward, several other prisoners had to help him back on his crutches so he could return to his cell.

He spent several more months at the lockup. After his release, on January 29, 2018, he presented the county a claim for damages to compensate him for his injuries suffered in the fall because the shower was inadequately equipped for an amputee like him. The county rejected the claim in its entirety on February 22, 2018.

On August 22, 2018, Rodriguez-Pena filed suit in Superior Court for the State of California, Santa Clara County, accusing the county of discriminating against him because of his disability in violation of California Government Code §11135 and also of failing to provide equal accommodations that took his disability into account, in violation of California Civil Code §51 et seq. and §54 et seq., as well as California Government Code §4450.

The county responded on November 2, 2018, denying the allegations, and the parties proceeded to reach their settlement agreement. Rodriguez-Pena was represented in his suit by Capitola attorney Stuart D. Kirchick. 

See: Rodriguez-Pena v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, Cal. Sup. Ct. (Cnty. of Santa Clara), Case No. 5:18-CV-333705.

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Related legal case

Rodriguez-Pena v. Cnty. of Santa Clara