Service Dog Tossed From Pre-Op Room, Woman Claims
9-21-2016 22:59:00

SACRAMENTO (CN) – A disabled woman claims Kaiser doctors kicked her out of a pre-operative waiting area because she had a service dog, in a complaint filed in the Eastern District Court of California.

        Amanda Rutherford sued Kaiser Foundation Hospitals for alleged civil rights violations and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

        Rutherford, who has rheumatoid arthritis and permanent injuries to her back and hip, says she has a yellow Labrador that helps her pick up dropped items, keep her balance, and help her get up when she falls.

In early December 2014, Rutherford went with her mother to the hospital where her mom was scheduled for knee replacement surgery. She and her dog went into the pre-operative holding area, just as they had done for her mom’s six previous surgery appointments, according to the complaint.           

The holding area is not sterile, Rutherford claims. It provides a place for patients and family members to meet with medical personnel involved in the surgery, get information, ask questions and give any information still needed before surgery. 

        Though the dog is up to date on its vaccinations, certified as a service dog, licensed in the county of Sacramento, and was on a leash and well-behaved, a male nurse told her she would have to leave because of her service dog, the complaint states. 

        Rutherford says she explained that her dog is a service dog and not a pet, but the nurse refused to listen and insisted she had to go.

        She claims no one gave her the chance to remove the dog so she could continue waiting with her mom, or to do her mom’s pre-operative care somewhere else so Rutherford could stay with her and keep her dog by her side.

        After the nurse escorted her into a common waiting area, Rutherford demanded to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor told her that, though Kaiser policy allows people with service dogs “reasonable access” to pre-operative waiting rooms, she could not go back because it was “not reasonable,” according to the complaint.

        Nor would they let Rutherford visit her mom after her surgery while accompanied by her service dog because her mom was assigned to a shared room, the complaint states.

        Rutherford says she filed a formal complaint, but Kaiser responded with a letter stating that the supervisor and nurse “acted appropriately and Kaiser’s policies regarding service animals conformed to the law.”

        She seeks an injunction ordering Kaiser to stop discriminating against people with service dogs and train its staff on how to treat such people. She also wants general, compensatory, and statutory damages, as well as litigation costs and fees.

          She is represented by Michelle Uzeta with the Center for Disability Access, a division of the Potter Handy law firm of Monrovia. 2:16cv2100