Friday, December 09, 2011

New Case from W.D. Tex. Shows Effect of ADAAA on Back Injury Claims

Earlier this week, Judge Frank Montalvo of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an opinion denying the defendant's motion for summary judgment in Molina v. DSI Renal, Inc., --- F.Supp.2d ----, 2011 WL 6076178 (W.D.Tex., Dec. 5, 2011). The case is a standard-issue back pain/lifting restriction case, but it nicely shows the impact of the ADA Amendments Act. (The case was brought under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, which the Texas legislature amended in 2009 to conform to the ADAAA, so the court relied on its interpretation of the ADAAA.)

In denying that plaintiff Molina's back injury was a disability, the defendant employer made a number of arguments that would likely have been successful under pre-ADAAA law, but which the court rejected based on the new statute. For example, the employer "point[ed] to Molina's testimony that her pain did not impact her ability to do any of her activities, and did not change the way she did her household activities or how she worked," as well as records from her initial EEOC interview, "where the intake worker wrote, 'Cp denies that she is limited in any way, and that she does everything as before.'" In the pre-ADAAA world, many plaintiffs lost at summary judgment based on those statements, but the court here relied on the EEOC's ADAAA regulations to conclude that "the fact that Molina learned to work through her pain to continue performing her regular tasks does not necessarily preclude her from being considered disabled." The court also noted that, to the extent that Molina could work through her pain, evidence suggested that was the result of medication, and the ADAAA requires courts to disregard the effects of medication in assessing disability. And the court held that a reasonable jury could find that the inability to lift more than 20 pounds was a substantial limitation on a major life activity, even though the defendant cited a number of pre-ADAAA cases holding it wasn't.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home