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Case Name VanValkenburg v. Oregon Department of Corrections PC-OR-0011
Docket / Court 3:14-cv-00916-BR ( D. Or. )
State/Territory Oregon
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On June 6, 2014, a deaf prison inmate who primarily communicates in American Sign Language filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Oregon against the Oregon Department of Corrections. The plaintiff brought disability discrimination claims under the ADA and a state anti-discrimination statute, as ... read more >
On June 6, 2014, a deaf prison inmate who primarily communicates in American Sign Language filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Oregon against the Oregon Department of Corrections. The plaintiff brought disability discrimination claims under the ADA and a state anti-discrimination statute, as well as an unjust enrichment claim. The plaintiff, represented by private attorneys, sought $460,000 in damages, claiming that there was a failure by the prison system to communicate with him since the beginning of his sentence in late 2000 (14 years). The lawsuit claimed that, instead of providing interpreters, the prison made him train other inmates as his interpreters and that they were not qualified to help him. These interpreters were also privy to confidential information since they were his method of communication for medical, religious, and counseling services.

On June 13, 2014, the defendant filed a partial motion to dismiss the plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim, as well as both disability discrimination claims on statute of limitations grounds. On October 6, 2014, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, which no longer included the unjust enrichment claim.

District Judge Anna J. Brown denied the defendant's motion to dismiss on October 30, 2014. With respect to the plaintiff's disability discrimination claims, the Court held that the continuing-violations doctrine (ADA claim) and the continuing-tort doctrine (state law claim) applied because the defendant’s conduct constituted longstanding, continuing violations based on discriminatory policies. 2014 WL 5494895.

On March 18, 2015, the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on June 16, 2015 and a second motion for partial summary judgment on August 28, 2015. The plaintiff then filed a cross motion for partial summary judgment on September 18, 2015.

On February 4, 2016, Judge Brown denied the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and granted in part and denied in part the defendant's motions for summary judgment. Specifically, the Court granted the defendant's motion with respect to the plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief because he had been released from custody; limited the plaintiff's recovery under the state anti-discrimination law to instances of disability discrimination that occurred on or after September 23, 2013; limited the plaintiff's recovery under the ADA to instances of disability discrimination that occurred on or after May 5, 2012; and dismissed the plaintiff's claim under the ADA for emotional-distress damages as barred by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). 2016 WL 447839. On May 2, 2016, Judge Brown issued an amended opinion and order in which he entered summary judgment in the defendant's favor against the plaintiff’s “continuing tort” theory of the case. The Court found that a question of fact existed regarding whether the plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies in order for his federal claim to proceed at all, pursuant to the PLRA. 2016 WL 2337892.

On May 19, 2016, the case was reassigned to Judge Michael W. Mosman. In August 2016, the parties engaged in settlement discussions, but were unable to reach an agreement and the case proceeded to a jury trial. The Court bifurcated the trial and first heard arguments on whether the plaintiff complied with the PLRA's exhaustion requirement. The Court held that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and dismissed his entire remaining ADA claim with prejudice. Following trial on the remainder of the plaintiff's state law discrimination claims, the jury returned a verdict of $400,000 in noneconomic damages for the plaintiff on November 3, 2016.

On December 5, 2016, the defendant filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, a motion for a new trial and an order of remittitur. On February 8, 2017, the Court denied the defendant's motion and judgment was entered for the plaintiff in the amount of $400,000.

On June 9, 2017, Judge Mosman ruled on the plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $911,062.21. While he did find that a fee multiplier was appropriate based on the risk involved in the case and the performance of the plaintiff's attorneys, he adopted a smaller fee multiplier than the one requested. Thus, Judge Mosman awarded the plaintiff $683,873.13 in attorneys' fees, $18,155.19 in costs, and $3,924.79 in litigation expenses. 2017 WL 2495496.

Although the parties both appealed the District Court's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in March 2017, the parties agreed to voluntarily dismiss the appeals on September 21, 2017 for unknown reasons. The case is now closed.

Deeva Shah - 09/25/2014
Eva Richardson - 01/20/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Language discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Effective Communication (ADA)
Religious programs / policies
TTY/Close Captioning/Videophone/etc.
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
State law
Defendant(s) Oregon Department fo Corrections
Plaintiff Description A deaf inmate
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
3:14-cv-00916-BR (D. Or.)
PC-OR-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/03/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [PACER] [ECF# 1-2]
PC-OR-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/05/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Oregon Department of Corrections Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [ECF# 3]
PC-OR-0011-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/13/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 26] (D. Or.)
PC-OR-0011-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/30/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 43]
PC-OR-0011-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/18/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Opinion and Order [ECF# 109] (D. Or.)
PC-OR-0011-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/02/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 210] (D. Or.)
PC-OR-0011-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 240] (D. Or.)
PC-OR-0011-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/09/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Brown, Anna J. (D. Or.) show/hide docs
PC-OR-0011-0003 | PC-OR-0011-0005 | PC-OR-0011-9000
Mosman, Michael W. (FISC, D. Or.) show/hide docs
PC-OR-0011-0006 | PC-OR-0011-0007
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ellis, Matthew C (Oregon) show/hide docs
PC-OR-0011-0001 | PC-OR-0011-0004 | PC-OR-0011-9000
Payne, Shenoa L. (Oregon) show/hide docs
PC-OR-0011-0001 | PC-OR-0011-0004 | PC-OR-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Van Meter, Heather J. (Oregon) show/hide docs
PC-OR-0011-9000
Vincent, Shannon M. (Oregon) show/hide docs
PC-OR-0011-0002 | PC-OR-0011-9000

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