Federal Court Rules in Favor of Man with HIV in ADA Case

This week a federal court judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma issued two rulings favorable to a man living with HIV who filed suit against the Payne County Board of County Commissioners and Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc., a for-profit corporation providing contract-based medical services at the Payne County Detention Center.

The two rulings stem from the plaintiff’s lawsuit alleging that Payne County violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by holding him in isolation at its jail facility simply because he has HIV, and that Advanced Correctional Healthcare was negligent by failing to provide life-sustaining HIV medication despite knowledge that the supply he brought to the facility would eventually run out.

When he filed the lawsuit, the plaintiff asked to proceed under the pseudonym “John Doe” based on the stigma associated with HIV.  ACH opposed the motion.  It wanted the court to force Doe to use his real name, which could potentially subject Doe to social stigma, violence and discrimination in employment, services or housing.  Given the absence of any prejudice that ACH might suffer as a consequence of the pseudonym, the motivation driving the opposition by ACH was never made clear.

Despite the opposition from ACH, the court granted Doe’s request this week and will allow him to litigate the merits of this case using a pseudonym.  The ruling mitigates the possibility that outside forces might pressure or dissuade Doe from continuing to assert his federal rights based on his HIV status.

The second ruling addressed a contention by Payne County that it was not the proper party, and that it should be dismissed from the case.  In essence, Payne County argued that the people who work in the Payne County Detention Center were not, in fact, county employees.  Skeptical of this assertion, the Court asked who was the employer if not the county?  The county attorney had no definitive answer, but appeared to claim these people were employees of the Sheriff’s Department.  The Court was not persuaded and concluded that employees within the Sheriff’s Department remain county employees for purposes of the ADA.

These rulings follow an earlier decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma which made similar findings in a separate case.

If you have questions about HIV discrimination or the Americans with Disabilities Act, call the personal injury lawyers at Bryan & Terrill, 918-935-2777.

*The attorneys at Bryan & Terrill represent the plaintiff in this matter, Doe v. Board of County Commissioners of Payne County, Oklahoma, et al., United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Case No. CIV-13-108-F.