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The Third Circuit determines that side effects from medical treatment may constitute an impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act in certain circumstances.

July 1, 2010
Sulima v. Tobyhanna Army Depot, 602 F.3d 177 (3d. Cir. April 12, 2010)

The plaintiff filed a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") following his termination from employment, arguing that the side effects of medications he was taking to treat his obesity and sleep apnea were "impairments" under the ADA. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that his medications caused him to use the restroom frequently. Relying on the reasoning from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Third Circuit determined that side effects from medical treatment may themselves constitute an impairment under the ADA. In so holding, the Court noted that it is not sufficient to show just the potentially disabling medication or course of treatment was prescribed or recommended by a licensed medical professional. Rather, the Court stated that the plaintiff must demonstrate that "the medication or course of treatment must be required in the 'prudent judgment of the medical profession,' and there must not be an available alternative that is equally efficacious that lacks similarly disabling side effects." With this test in mind, the Court upheld summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff's employer, noting that the plaintiff testified that his doctor recommended that he discontinue the medication and his doctor testified that if he knew of these side effects sooner, he would have stopped prescribing the medication altogether. As a result, the Court determined that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the medication was required "in the prudent judgment of the medical profession" to constitute an impairment under the ADA.

Case Law Alert - 3rd Qtr 2010

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Lee C. Durivage
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