Alston v. Park Pleasant, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 2668 (3d. Cir. Feb. 15, 2017)

Third Circuit determines plaintiff’s failure to articulate that her cancer substantially limited a major life activity required dismissal of her lawsuit.

The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim, finding that the district court correctly determined that the plaintiff failed to satisfy her burden of establishing that she was disabled pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in which she alleged that her employment was terminated within a few weeks after informing her supervisors that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Following the completion of discovery, the employer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to establish that she was “disabled” pursuant to the ADA and that she was terminated for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reason. In upholding the dismissal of the lawsuit, the Third Circuit solely addressed the issue of disability. Although the Third Circuit noted that the amendments to the ADA “broadened the scope of ADA coverage by expanding the definition of disability” and “that cancer can—and generally will—be a qualifying disability under the ADA,” it also determined that the “determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity requires an individualized assessment.” In fact, while the court stated that the individualized assessment is “particularly simple and straightforward for diseases like cancer,” the plaintiff’s claim failed because she “has never claimed at any stage of this litigation that her [cancer] limited any substantial life activity” and her attorney admitted during argument that the plaintiff “has not claimed that she had any limitations in her activities.”


Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2017

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