Adams v. Crestwood Med. Ctr.

Decision Date01 December 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 5:18-cv-01443-HNJ
Citation504 F.Supp.3d 1263
Parties Warren ADAMS, Plaintiff v. CRESTWOOD MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama

Lee David Winston, Roderick Twain Cooks, Winston Cooks, LLC, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff.

Anne Knox Averitt, John W. Hargrove, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, Birmingham, AL, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HERMAN N. JOHNSON, JR., UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

This action proceeds before the court on Defendant Crestwood Medical Center's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 24). Plaintiff Warren Adams claims Defendant Crestwood Medical Center ("Crestwood") discriminated against him on the basis of his mental disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. , as amended. The viability of plaintiff's claim primarily hinges on Crestwood tasking Adams with delivering meal trays to hospital patients. Adams avers his mental disabilities hindered his ability to perform the meal tray delivery duty, and Crestwood failed to reasonably accommodate his mental disabilities vis-à-vis such duty.

The court concludes genuine issues of material fact persist as to whether Adams manifests an intellectual disability, whether serving meal trays constituted an essential function of his employment, and whether the request for relief from the meal tray delivery duty constituted a reasonable accommodation. Therefore, based upon the following discussion, the court DENIES Crestwood's Motion for Summary Judgment.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he 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). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc. , 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ).

If the movant sustains its burden, a non-moving party demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact by producing evidence by which a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomms., Inc. , 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The non-movant sustains this burden by demonstrating "that the record in fact contains supporting evidence, sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion." Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta , 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993). In the alternative, the non-movant may "come forward with additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency." Id. at 1116–17 ; see also Doe v. Drummond Co. , 782 F.3d 576, 603–04 (11th Cir. 2015), cert. denied , 577 U.S. 1139, 136 S. Ct. 1168, 194 L.Ed.2d 178 (2016).

The "court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc. , 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000) (citations omitted). "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ). "Thus, although the court should review the record as a whole, it must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the jury is not required to believe." Reeves , 530 U.S. at 151, 120 S.Ct. 2097 (citation omitted). "That is, the court should give credence to the evidence favoring the nonmovant as well as that ‘evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.’ " Id. (citation omitted).

Rule 56 "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548. "In such a situation, there can be ‘no genuine issue as to any material fact,’ since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 322–23, 106 S.Ct. 2548. In addition, a movant may prevail on summary judgment by submitting evidence "negating [an] opponent's claim," that is, by producing materials disproving an essential element of a non-movant's claim or defense. Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (emphasis in original).

There exists no issue for trial unless the nonmoving party submits evidence sufficient to merit a jury verdict in its favor; if the evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The movant merits summary judgment if the governing law on the claims or defenses commands one reasonable conclusion, id. at 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, but the court should deny summary judgment if reasonable jurors "could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. That is, a court should preserve a case for trial if there exists "sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Id. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

BACKGROUND

The undersigned sets forth the following facts for the summary judgment determination, drawn from the evidence taken in the light most favorable to Adams.

On July 1, 2015, Crestwood hired Adams to work as a Nutrition Services Tech I (Porter) (hereafter Porter/Dishwasher).1 (Doc. 26-1 at 48–49). Adams's spouse, Mrs. Tosha Adams, discovered the Porter/Dishwasher position on Indeed.com, and proceeded to apply for the position on Adams's behalf by completing an online application and resume. (Tosha Adams Dep. at 27, l. 23; 31, ll. 2–3 & 6–7). The resume Mrs. Adams drafted states Adams commenced working as a "Dietary Aid[e]" at Redstone Arsenal MWR in March 2014, a position which he maintained during the relevant period.2 (Doc. 26-1 at 53, Warren Adams Dep. at 63, ll. 16–65, l. 15). The resume further states Adams worked as a "Dietary Aid[e]" at "NHC nursing home" for the period February 2012 to March 2014, and as a "custodian/ dietary [aide]"3 at Riverview Regional Medical Center for the period February 1990 to February 2012. (Doc. 26-1 at 53–55).

The resume portrays that Adams performed identical job duties in each afore-cited position, which Mrs. Adams listed as follows:

• Prepare resident trays according to instructions/order • Delivers food, nourishment and supplies to nursing units
• Operates dish machine and various food service equipment
• Cleans dish machine area and clean and de-lime dish machine
• Stores clean equipment and utensils
• Unloads delivery trucks and put away stock
• Sets up dietary tray cards
• Delivers food carts to resident meal service location areas
• Empties garbage in dumpster and sanitize garbage cans
• Maintains effective communication with residents, families and facility staff
• Follows strict guidelines for serving times
• Assists in maintaining preparation and service area in sanitary condition
• Skilled in sweeping and mopping floors
[•] Trained new employees

(Doc. 26-1 at 53–33).

Mrs. Adams averred she lacked "direct knowledge of" Adams's prior job duties and that upon drafting Adams's resume, she "just cut and paste[d] job descriptions that [she] saw on the Internet." (Tosha Adams Dep. at 28, ll. 7–9). As she explained: "I know when [Adams] came home [from work], he told me he washed dishes, and he swept and mopped. That's the only thing I could attest to." (Id. at 28, ll. 12–15). Mrs. Adams testified that she did not review the resume with Adams before she submitted it to Crestwood. (Id. at 37, ll. 4–8).

After Mrs. Adams submitted Adams's application materials, Lloyd Morrow, Crestwood's Food and Nutrition Services Director, telephoned her to schedule an interview with Adams for the Porter/Dishwasher position.4 (Id. at 32, ll. 17–18). Mrs. Adams testified that the next day, she visited Morrow in person to explain that she would accompany Adams to the interview and complete any paperwork on his behalf. (Id. at 33, ll. 3–7; 34, ll. 2–4). According to Mrs. Adams, she explained to Morrow "that [Adams] had a learning disability. He's not able to articulate himself. He's not able to explain things. So [she] would have to pretty much do the whole interview for him." (Id. at 33, ll. 8–12).

As for the interview, Mrs. Adams testified that she "answered all [of Morrow's] questions" while Adams "pretty much just sat there." (Id. at 34, ll. 7–9). At the interview, Morrow stated Adams would be "[c]leaning tables and taking out trash." (Tosha Adams Dep. at 36, ll. 10–11). According to Adams himself, Morrow stated during the interview that Adams's job duties would remain limited to cleaning tables in the cafeteria and removing garbage from the cafeteria, which Adams refers to as "work[ing] in the front." (Warren Adams Dep. at 47, ll. 9–13). Adams averred that Morrow "hired [him] to wash tables and take out the garbage can", and "didn't hire [him] for [any]thing else." (Id. at 22, ll. 18–20). According to Adams, "[t]hat's what the application said." (Id. at 43, ll. 3–4). Mrs. Adams further testified that Morrow stated Adams would work "Monday through Friday" from "9:00 [a.m.] to 3:30 [p.m.] or 9:30 [a.m.] to 3:00 [p.m.]", with no scheduling...

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