C.L. v. Del Amo Hosp., Inc.,
2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150838
Keywords: ADA, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52, Unruh Act, service animal, accommodation
C.L. was voluntarily admitted to Del Amo Hospital on a number of occasions, due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative identity disorder (DID). C.L. wanted to bring her self-described service dog, Aspen, with her during her stay. Del Amo said “no” because in their opinion Aspen was a service animal. The Central District Court agreed with Del Amo.
C.L. has been diagnosed with Complex PTSD and DID due to a history of severe childhood trauma, major depression, and anxiety. Due to these disabilities, C.L. experiences hypervigilance, anxiety, flashbacks, intense nightmares, self-harming behaviors, dissociation, and suicidal thoughts.
The National Treatment Center Program at Del Amo specializes in trauma treatment and recovery. C.L. voluntarily checked into the program on seven times from September 2015 through August 2017.
In January 2012, C.L. wanted a service dog, but the lowest price that she could find was $15,000. She could not afford a service dog. So she obtained a companion dog, Aspen, under the care of her doctor, Dr. Foust. When Aspen was three months old, C.L. attended a basic obedience class at a company that does not conduct service dog training. Next, C.L. contacted Little Angels Service Dogs about self-training Aspen to be a service dog.
Katie Gonzales at Little Angels told C.L. that certification costs $930. It is granted to the handler/dog teams who attend three seminars over a six-month or longer period. The handler/dog team must successfully pass both a written test and a field test demonstrating their ability to work together safely in public with the dog helping to lessen the disabilities of the handler/recipient. Additionally, Ms. Gonzales must see the dog in question perform service dog tasks before she would approve the dog for certification. C.L. registered for, and attended, the first seminar twice, in May 2014 and May 2015. However, she did not attend seminars 2 or 3. Therefore, Aspen and C.L. did not receive certification from Little Angels.
In each of the seven times C.L. was admitted to the Del Amo Hospital, and requested Aspen stay with her, the request was denied by the hospital.
Title III of the ADA requires a plaintiff to show "(1) she is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) the defendant is a private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation; and (3) the plaintiff was denied public accommodation by the defendant because of her disability."
First, C.L. is an individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA, due to her diagnoses of PTSD and DID. Second, a hospital is a place of public accommodation. In regard to the third prong, "a hospital improperly discriminates if it fails to make reasonable accommodations for a person with a service animal."
The Central District Court found that Del Amo did not discriminate against C.L. because Aspen was not a service dog. Aspen and C.L. failed to complete the training necessary for certification and, therefore, staff at Little Angels could not certify that Aspen was properly trained.
The Court of Appeals also ruled in favor of Del Amo. The court ruled that the certification of Aspen as a service dog had to be made by an independent source, not just on the word of C.L.