Arwen Bird v. Lewis & Clark College

303 F.3d 1015 (2002)

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Arwen Bird v. Lewis & Clark College

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
303 F.3d 1015 (2002)

Facts

Arwen Bird (plaintiff) was studying biology at Lewis & Clark College (Lewis & Clark) (defendant). Bird was involved in a car accident that left her confined to a wheelchair. Bird was accepted into a field-based study abroad program in Australia, which involved exploration of the Australian continent. Lewis & Clark contacted Global Education Designs (Global), the Australian company overseeing the program, to see whether arrangements could be made to accommodate Bird. Ultimately, it was decided that the trip would be able to accommodate Bird and that adequate facilities could be provided. The trip, however, did not meet Bird’s requirements in every location. Overall, Bird did not have full wheelchair access at 22 locations. At some of her lodging facilities, Bird could not access and utilize the bathroom, and she needed assistance entering the building. Bird was able to participate in some, but not all, of the planned activities. Bird brought claims seeking equitable relief under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Rehab Act) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and a claim seeking damages under the Rehab Act. Bird’s equitable-relief claims were tried to the court, and her other claims were tried to a jury. At trial, Lewis & Clark offered evidence to show that it made reasonable efforts to accommodate Bird, including that it paid for alternative modes of transportation, paid two students to assist her, and provided her with a smaller, narrower wheelchair so she could fit through doorways. Bird was also offered different accommodations in certain locations that were more wheelchair accessible. Additionally, Lewis & Clark worked with Global to plan certain activities with Bird’s disability in mind. A trial court ruled against Bird on her equitable-relief claims, and a jury ruled against her on her claim for damages, finding that she was not discriminated against. The district court denied Bird’s motion for a new trial and Lewis & Clark’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on Bird’s breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim, which she prevailed on. Both Bird and Lewis & Clark appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Goodwin, J.)

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