The ruling confirms the 2008 amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act that allowed plaintiffs to bring claims for injuries that “last less than six months or are likely to last” while meeting ADA requirements. (Photo: Vitalii Vodolazskyi / Shutterstock)
The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Second District ruled for the first time on Wednesday that temporary injuries may qualify as disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
A unanimous panel of the Manhattan appeals court joined three other circles in ruling that the 2008 amendments to the landmark Anti-Discrimination Act allowed plaintiffs to pursue injury claims that “last less than six months or are likely to last less than six months.” as long as the so The requirements of the ADA are met.
Related: COVID Long Distance Drivers and the Battle for Disability Benefits
The decision made on appeal from an inmate who said he was denied placement after a dislocated knee in the Westchester County Jail was expected to have widespread implications and significantly widen the types of injuries, that could give way to a viable claim for disability discrimination, lawyer Marjorie Mesidor said on Wednesday.
“We have had very narrow views on how to deal with disability for years,” said Mesidor, a partner at Phillips & Associates who represents and was not part of the appeal plaintiffs in discrimination litigation against their employers.
For employees, Mesidor said, the ruling means “greater protection” in the workplace for non-permanent injuries. And companies would need to take reasonable precautions against a wide variety of injuries and complaints.
“You have to get into an interactive process,” she said. “You have to open a dialogue.”
The novel ruling in favor of plaintiff Davonte Hamilton and his attorney Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz brought the Second Circuit into line with the federal appeals courts in Boston, Virginia and Chicago, which all applied relaxed time requirements following the ADA changes.
In a 20-page precedent opinion, the three-person panel said that the law’s “expanded definition” of “disability” known as ADAAA, a plaintiff’s actual disability claim “does not fail because” an injury is temporary.
The verdict, which failed to reach the merits of Hamilton’s claims, overturned the ruling of a Manhattan federal judge who found that temporary injuries are not considered disabilities under the law. It referred the case back to the District Court with instructions to determine whether Hamilton’s injury was indeed classified as a disability under the ADA.
“We only come to the conclusion that Hamilton’s lawsuit could not be legally dismissed just because the violation that caused these restrictions was temporary,” wrote the US District Judge Denny Chin for the court.
“To arrive at this conclusion, let us join the First, Fourth and Seventh Circles and keep this under the expanded definition of ‘disability’ under the ADA, which now covers impairments that ‘last or are likely to last less than six months “A brief violation of terms may be considered an actionable disability under the ADA,” said Chin.
He was involved in the decision by the US circuit judges Guido Calabresi and Reena Raggi.
Hamilton had alleged in a Pro-Se complaint that prison officials turned down his request for housing after he dislocated his knee and tore a meniscus on a piece of crumbled concrete in the facility’s yard.
According to court records, the medical service responsible for treating the inmates ignored a doctor’s recommendation that Hamilton wear a “knee stabilizer” and get an immediate MRI of his injury. Instead, the contractor replaced the stabilizer with an elastic bandage, which caused Hamilton “excruciating pain”.
The lawsuit also alleged that the prison lacked adequate supports, including railings and ramps, to help it move around the facility.
The district had argued, among other things, that Hamilton’s injury had only lasted 19 days when he filed a lawsuit in 2018. However, the ruling dismissed this position as “insincere”, stating that the law “does not suggest that it” has any duration that is too short. “
“The lawsuit alleged that Hamilton suffered a dislocated knee, a torn meniscus, was in excruciating pain, his injuries were not properly treated and he was placed in situations where his injuries worsened,” Chin said. “These circumstances lead to the plausible conclusion that Hamilton’s injuries continued and will likely last well longer than nineteen days.”
Tamara Livshiz, the Wachtell partner who represented Hamilton in the appeal, did not comment on the verdict on Wednesday.