Ress et al v. The Diveheart Foundation, Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-05776, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois)
This disability discrimination lawsuit was filed on behalf of two accomplished scuba divers with disabilities, whose certifications were revoked or altered by The Diveheart Foundation (“Diveheart”), a scuba diving school for persons with disabilities.
Diveheart offers scuba training courses, including an Adaptive Diver Course (for persons with disabilities wishing to learn to learn how to scuba dive), an Adaptive Dive Buddy Course (for divers wishing to learn how to assist in the training of divers with disabilities) and an Adaptive Instructor Course (for persons wishing to serve as an instructor of divers with disabilities).
Plaintiffs Dr. Craig Ress and Carl Cogdill are persons with disabilities and are both skilled adaptive scuba divers. Dr. Ress and Mr. Cogdill advanced through Diveheart’s courses, with Dr. Ress becoming an Adaptive Instructor in 2017 and Mr. Cogdill an Advanced Dive Buddy in 2018. After obtaining these certifications, both Dr. Ress trained more than 20 adaptive divers and Mr. Cogdill served as an Adaptive Dive Buddy on at least 15 occasions.
In September 2018, Diveheart abruptly placed restrictions on Dr. Ress’s certification, barring him from conducting adaptive diver trainings without the presence of a second certified professional Diveheart adaptive instructor, citing his disability as the reason for such restriction. Diveheart subsequently revoked Mr. Cogdill’s certification, also citing his disability. Such actions were taken although both Dr. Ress and Mr. Cogdill had consistently and fully performed all of the requirements associated with their certifications.
Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability. Diveheart’s unjustified action has required Dr. Ress and Mr. Cogdill to file this lawsuit to protect their rights to be free from such discrimination, as attempts to reach a resolution with Diveheart prior to filing suit were not successful. The lawsuit seeks an order from the court that Diveheart’s actions were unlawful and Dr. Ress’s and Mr. Cogdill’s certifications should be restored. The lawsuit also seeks damages caused by Diveheart’s discriminatory actions.