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Reeder v. Carter

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 21, 2018

DILLON B. REEDER, Plaintiff,
DOUGLAS G. CARTER, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Indiana State Police, Defendant.



         This matter comes before us on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Dillon B. Reeder (“Mr. Reeder”) [Dkt. No. 40] and by Defendant Douglas G. Carter, Superintendent of the Indiana State Police (“ISP”) (“Superintendent Carter”) in his official capacity [Dkt. No. 37]. The motions relate to Mr. Reeder's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., and are ripe for ruling. For the reasons detailed below, we GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and DENY the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The ISP Recruit Academy located in Plainfield, Indiana conducts an annual, limited duration program to train recruits who aspire to become State Troopers. Mr. Reeder, as part of his effort to become a State Trooper, enrolled in ISP's 74th class, which ran from July 21, 2014 to December 23, 2014. Deposition of Zachary Parker, Dkt. No. 37-1 (“Parker Dep.”) at 2.

         Academy curriculum consists of 929 hours of required training, which includes physical training and classroom-based training in criminal justice, administrative, and police-related subjects. Deposition of Superintendent Carter, Dkt. Nos. 37-2 and 44 (“Carter Dep.”) at 99; Deposition of Sargent Russell Garrison, Dkt. Nos. 37-4 and 44 (“Garrison Dep.”) Ex. 3. The ISP regards the physical training component as “not something that [one] can simply observe”; rather, active participation is required. Id. In that vein, the ISP retains authority to dismiss from the Academy recruits who fail to satisfy the minimum physical standards set forth by the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Academy (“ILEA”).[1] Carter Dep. at 90; Garrison Dep. Ex. 3. Certain aspects of Academy training require recruits to wear Tactical Defense Uniforms (“TDUs”) comprised of a duty belt and a bulletproof vest. Garrison Dep. Ex. 11.

         The essential skills required of a State Trooper trainee are set forth by statute and by the 74th Recruit Academy Policy and Procedures Manual. Garrison Dep. Ex. 11. A recruit must complete rigorous physical training and pass substantive coursework selected by the Superintendent. Ind. Code § 10-11-2-14(b); see also 240 IAC 1-44-4 and 5 (providing that ISP requires that recruits “conform to the physical standards prescribed by the Superintendent and the State Police Board, ” specifying that recruits must “be able to successfully pass any physical agility tests as may be prescribed by the department.”).

         On weekdays during the training sessions recruits remain on Academy grounds with permission to leave only when released by their instructors. The ISP contracts with a third party provider to supply recruits with all meals, and the menus reflect a limited choice of options. Deposition of Major Charles Sorrells, Dkt. Nos. 37-2 and 44 (“Sorrells Dep.”) at 39.

         Superintendent Carter is vested with sole authority to determine recruits' eligibility to graduate from the Academy. Carter Dep. at 101. Upon successful completion of the ISP Academy course, recruits are eligible to apply for State Trooper positions located in various Indiana counties. Recruits are also required to participate in post-graduation training under the instruction of a Field Training Officer (“FTO”). Garrison Dep. at 105. The duration of this final stage of training is fourteen weeks, which allows a recruit to obtain capstone training and experience from a veteran trooper. Sorrells Dep. at 117.

         Plaintiff's Attendance at the Academy

         Mr. Reeder enrolled in and began attending the ISP Academy in July 2014. Within a few months, during his fifteenth and sixteenth weeks, he began experiencing significant back pain. Deposition of Dillon Reeder, Dkt. No. 37-3 and 44 (“Reeder Dep.”) at 26, 28, 30. A few weeks following the onset of his back pain during the Academy's eighteenth week, he sought medical treatment on November 7, 2014 at Indiana University Hospital in Martinsville, Indiana, and was diagnosed with having uncontrolled Type 1 diabetes. Dr. Thomas Lahr, M.D. admitted him to St. Francis Hospital to undergo glucose reduction and insulin treatment in an effort to stabilize his condition. As a result, he missed four days of classroom-based training offered that week. Reeder Dep. at 24. Mr. Reeder testified that at the time of his diagnosis he had lost over fifty pounds from the first day he enrolled in the Academy. Reeder Dep. at 28.

         According to Mr. Reeder, Major Sorrells, the Academy's Human Resources officer, visited him at Indiana University Hospital in Martinsville on November 9, 2014, and again at St. Francis Hospital on November 10 and 12, 2014. Reeder Dep. at 29-30. Mr. Reeder testified that Major Sorrells informed him that a recording was being made of the classroom sessions during his hospitalization which would allow him to catch up with the missed presentations upon his return. Id. at 32.

         Prior to his release from St. Francis Hospital on November 10, 2014, Mr. Reeder's physician provided him with guidelines and recommendations for meals and warned him against engaging in strenuous exercise which could negatively affect his blood sugar levels. Reeder Dep. at 38. Mr. Reeder was advised to request that the Academy make available to him an appropriate meal plan. Id. Mr. Reeder testified that Major Sorrells was present during this discussion with the discharging physician. Id. at 39.

         Mr. Reeder maintains that Major Sorrells informed him that he had satisfied most of the requirements for becoming a State Trooper, needing only at that point to “log classroom hours” following his return to the Academy. Id. He recalls that Major Sorrells promised to arrange for an appropriate meal plan for him at the Academy and to assist him in securing a post-graduation job in the county closest to Mr. Reeder's hometown to allow him to continue his medical appointments. Id. at 33. Major Sorrells, however, denies having had any specific discussions with Mr. Reeder regarding accommodations following his return to the Academy. Sorrells Dep. at 115-16. In any event, the ISP stresses that only the Superintendent, not Major Sorrells or anyone else, has the authority to determine whether and when a recruit has satisfied the Academy's graduation requirements. Carter Dep. at 101.

         On November 16, 2014, one day prior to Mr. Reeder's return to the Academy, Gary Midla, D.O., Mr. Reeder's family physician, cleared Mr. Reeder to return to the classroom but issued a written report to the ISP notifying ISP that Mr. Reeder was “not yet able to tolerate the rigors of the physical part of his training.” Garrison Dep. Ex. 9. When Mr. Reeder returned to the Academy on November 17, 2014, he did so with the expectation that he would receive any and all required accommodations necessitated by his medical condition. Reeder Dep. at 96, 136.

         Mr. Reeder asserts that for the most part his dietary needs were not met; only on a handful of occasions during the first few days after his return to the Academy were his meals properly adjusted. Reeder Dep. at 41-43, 61. The ISP explains that it did its best to accommodate Mr. Reeder's dietary needs, given its contractual relationship with the third party food service provider. Defendant's Answers to Plaintiff's Interrogatories, Dkt. 37-7 (“Defendant's Answers”) at 3. During mealtimes, Mr. Reeder reported that he personally assumed responsibility for his meals by limiting his intake to foods lower in carbohydrates and substituting other fare with specially made turkey sandwiches. Reeder Dep. at 36, 38-39. On his first day back at the Academy, the ISP permitted Mr. Reeder to access snacks between meals, which had been delivered by his mother. ISP also allowed Mr. Reeder unrestricted access to refrigerated beverages. Defendant's Answers at 2.

         Mr. Reeder sought to be excused from his physical training courses (Reeder Dep. at 96) but his instructors were unable to accommodate this request. He engaged as much as he could, even while wearing his TDU. Reeder Dep. at 39. However, Mr. Reeder found this activity to be too rigorous for him. Reeder Dep. at 45. On November 21, 2014, Dr. Lahr, Mr. Reeder's family physician, sent a letter to the ISP similar to the one provided by Dr. Midla advising that Mr. Reeder still “should not be involved in any physical activity.” Garrison Dep. Ex. 10. This letter was received and read by Major Sorrells. Sorrells Dep. at 32. Nonetheless, Mr. Reeder was required to continue strenuous training, which produced episodes of significant exhaustion for him. Reeder Dep. at 60.

         There is no dispute between the parties regarding the fact that any required accommodations to training procedures by the Academy are made on a case-by-case basis. Sorrells Dep. at 94. However, there is a dispute as to whether recruits were on occasion permitted to observe, as opposed to directly participate in, a training activity, a practice Mr. Reeder refers to as “red-tagging.” Reeder Dep. at 39. Mr. Reeder maintains that the practice of “red-tagging” occurred from time to time, though ISP staff apparently remained unaware of its use. Sorrells Dep. at 110-11. To make this point, Mr. Reeder identified certain other recruits who had suffered injuries and were excused from physical training for short periods of time (i.e., one week). In such cases, the recruits were given a “red tag” to show they were under restrictions until they were physically able to return to training.[2] Reeder Dep. at 61-62. One recruit who had suffered a broken shoulder and was excused from training during the final two or three weeks of Academy training was still permitted to graduate subject to his completion of the missed training. Garrison Dep. at 43; Defendant's Supplemental Answers, Dkt. No. 44 at 106.

         The ISP made various accommodations for Mr. Reeder following his diabetes diagnosis. He was allowed to carry equipment with him for monitoring his blood sugar levels and to notify his instructors if he needed modifications of the physical training. He was allowed to return to his dorm to rest as needed, at his discretion. Defendant's Answers at 3. On certain occasions, he was excused altogether from engaging in training exercises when he was unable to complete them. He was also excused from Evasive Vehicle Operations (“EVO”) training on an occasion when he did not feel well (Reeder Dep. at 49). Another time, Mr. Reeder was escorted back to his dorm without having completed an exercise called “night fire.”[3] Reeder Dep. at 53-55. Once, his instructor exempted him from an exercise called “one on one hitman” since he had previously completed “two on one hitman.” Id. at 47.

         At some point, it became clear that Mr. Reeder would be unable to complete all the requirements necessary in order to graduate as a member of the 74th Academy. This determination was reflected in ISP records. Carter Dep. at 101. In December 2014, prior to the recruits' participation in the Quickening Field Scenarios, a strenuous, three-day off-site training exercise in Jennings County referred to as “the Quickening, ” Mr. Reeder was deemed unqualified to participate. Carter Dep. at 102-03, 122.

         Mr. Reeder's Fitness-for-Duty Report and Removal from the Academy

         Prior to the Quickening, Mr. Reeder was ordered by the ISP to undergo a Fitness-for-Duty evaluation, which examination and report were completed by Dr. Steven Moffatt, M.D. on December 9, 2014.[4] Reeder Dep. at 63. This evaluation was to determine whether Mr. Reeder's medical condition might prevent him from performing the essential functions of a State Trooper position. Moffatt Dep. at 10. Based on the examination, the evaluations by Doctors Midla and Lahr, Dr. Moffatt prepared the following report:

Dillion Reeder is a 23 year old Trooper cadet currently in the Academy who presented with substantial weight loss in November 2014 of approximately 42 pounds during the Academy. He was noted to have severe exhaustion and was taken to the emergency room and found to have a blood sugar of over 1200. . . He was hospitalized for 4 days undergoing glucose reduction and the institution of insulin to control his diabetes Type 1.
Additionally, while hospitalized he was found to have renal insufficiency secondary to his diabetes crisis . . . His renal functions have returned to their normal measurements without any significant proteinuria. He has done well with regard to monitoring his blood sugars every 2 hours and providing those to his endocrinologist, Dr. Waddle, who has provided him adjustments in his insulin. He is additionally on a sliding scale regular insulin adjustment. He has no other complications associated with his diabetes.
Mr. Reeder understands that this disease is his responsibility with regard to his treatment and that he is to be compliant with regard to his insulin dosage. It is also anticipated that in the near term approximately 4-8 weeks he will undergo an insulin pump placement for greater, more accurate control of his diabetes with an anticipation to be released to unrestricted activity. However at this point in time due to his continued episodes of exhaustion, it is recommended that he not be placed in any strenuous physical activity until further insulin adjustment is provided regulating his glucose.
It should also be mentioned that the potential for death due to his initial diagnosis of diabetes with a blood sugar of over 1200 was a significant potential at presentation; however he at this point in time has returned back to normal functioning.
In conclusion, Dillon is status post new diagnosis of Type 1 insulin diabetes currently being regulated with insulin and is anticipated to have an insulin pump within the next 4-8 weeks. He has done well with regard to compliance and has undergone nutrition counseling. Prognosis is reasonably good for a return to unrestricted activity in approximately 4-8 weeks after implementation of the insulin pump. It should be noted that I should ...

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