Major Cases Impacting the ADA in the Great Lakes Region Over the Past 25 Years

Definition of Disability: Before the ADA Amendments Act

Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624 (1998)
The Supreme Court held that an individual with asymptomatic HIV has a disability under the ADA, as HIV is a physical impairment that may cause a substantial limitation in the major life activity of reproduction. This Supreme Court decision was important because it affirmed the fact that the statutory and regulatory list of “major life activities” was not exhaustive. It also clarified that a major life activity can be an internal, autonomous activity, and that there is no required link between a major life activity and the alleged discrimination.

Sutton v. United Airlines, 527 U.S. 471 (1999)
The Supreme Court held that mitigating measures are taken into account when determining whether an individual has an ADA-qualifying disability. In her decision, Justice O’Connor cited three reasons: (1) the phrase “substantially limits” is in present tense, so Congress intended individuals to be evaluated as they appear in real world; (2) employers should not have to speculate about how an individual would function without the mitigating measure; and (3) the ADA’s preamble estimates coverage to 43 million people, which appears to include only those without mitigating measures. For many years, this decision significantly narrowed the definition of disability under the ADA. However, Congress criticized this decision in the findings and purpose section of the ADA Amendments Act, and this case is no longer good law.

Toyota v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002)
In this Supreme Court case, the Court held that the plaintiff did not have a disability under the ADA because she was not substantially limited in performing manual tasks that are “central to most people’s daily lives.” The Court further stated that the definition of disability is to be “interpreted strictly” to create a “demanding standard.” Like Sutton, this decision narrowed the definition of disability, but is no longer good law as a result of the ADA Amendments Act.

Definition of Disability: After the ADA Amendments Act

Gogos v. AMS Mechanical Systems, 737 F.3d 1170 (7th Cir. 2013)
This is one of the first appellate court cases substantively applying the ADA Amendments Act in an employment discrimination case. In this case, the plaintiff, an individual with high blood pressure, was terminated from his position. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s order granting summary judgment, and discussed the EEOC’s regulatory language, episodic conditions, mitigating measures, and short-term conditions. Specifically, the Seventh Circuit held that even if Plaintiff’s blood pressure spike and vision loss manifested themselves in an episodic way, episodic conditions are now covered by the ADA. It also found that short-term disabilities can be covered by the ADA, citing the appendix to the EEOC regulations. The Seventh Circuit held that the plaintiff’s blood pressure spike and intermittent blindness could substantially limit two of his major bodily functions, eyesight and circulatory function. Finally, the Seventh Circuit explained that courts must disregard the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures when determining whether an individual has a disability under the ADA, and thus, the ameliorative effects of the plaintiff’s blood pressure medication must be disregarded.

Kinney v. Century Services Corp., Simmons, 2011 WL 3476569 (S.D. Ind. Aug. 9, 2011)
An employee requested leave to receive in-patient treatment for depression. The employee was not allowed to return from leave, and was ultimately terminated. Applying the ADAAA, the court held that the employee had raised a question of fact that she has a disability and rejected employer’s claim that her “isolated bouts” with depression did not constitute an ADA disability. Episodic impairments are covered by the ADAAA if they are substantially limiting when active.

Gregor v. Polar Semiconductor Inc., 2013 WL 588743 (D. Minn. Feb. 13, 2013)
The court found that an employee was substantially limited in the major life activity of performing manual tasks. The employee demonstrated that he lost part of his index and middle fingers, and as a result, was restricted from pinching between his thumb and index or middle fingers. He also had established that he had diminished grip strength, was unable to make torquing or crimping movements, and was restricted from using vibrating tools or carrying heavy objects.

Definition of Disability: Regarded As

Brooks v. Kirby Risk Corp., 2009 WL 3055305 (N.D. Ind. Sep. 21, 2009)
The court found that the ADA Amendments Act broadened the “regarded as” prong for the definition of disability, and protects individuals who are “regarded as” having a disabling impairment even when the impairment neither is, nor is perceived to be, substantially limiting. (See also: Plaintiffs in ADA cases are “no longer is required to prove that the employer regarded her impairment as substantially limiting a major life activity,” Wells v. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, 2012 WL 510913 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 15, 2012).)

Stahly v. South Bend Public Transportation Corp., 2013 WL 55830 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 3, 2013)
The court allowed an employee’s claim to proceed, finding that she presented sufficient evidence that her employer “regarded” her as having a disability. The employee met her burden by showing that her employer was aware that she took medication, experienced an anxiety attack and was admitted to an emergency room. The court noted that under the ADA Amendments Act, individuals qualify for coverage under the regarded as theory “whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.” The employee brought this claim to challenge the company’s policy requiring employees to disclose all medications for “safety” reasons. The court found this to be an impermissible medical inquiry, explaining that the evidence failed to demonstrate that the employer could not obtain the same information from a narrowly tailored request.

Definition of Disability: Record of

Doe v. The Salvation Army in the U.S., 531 F.3d 355 (6th Cir. 2008)
In this case under the Rehabilitation Act, an employee was not hired by the Salvation Army due to a history of having paranoid schizophrenia and taking psychotropic medications. The court held that Doe may have a claim for discrimination based on his “record of” a disability and that the Salvation Army may have inappropriately asked Doe about the medications that he was taking.

Association Discrimination

DeWitt v. Proctor Hospital, 2008 WL 509194 (7th Cir. Feb. 27, 2008)
An employee alleged that her employer fired her to avoid having to continue to pay for the substantial medical costs that were being incurred by her husband’s cancer treatments under the employer's self-insured health insurance plan. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. However, the Seventh Circuit reversed this decision, finding that because the plaintiff established that direct evidence of “association discrimination” may have motivated the employer in its decision to fire her, a jury should be allowed to consider her claim. Specifically, the court relied on the fact that the employer indicated it was reviewing the unusually high costs of her husband’s medical expenses at the same time it was identifying ways to cut health care costs and also asked plaintiff if her husband had considered hospice care instead of the more expensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments her husband was receiving.

Qualified: Essential Job Functions

Demyanovich v. Cadon Plating & Coatings, 747 F.3d 419 (6th Cir. 2014)
The Sixth Circuit first held that lifting was not necessarily an essential function of a line operator position, as the employee’s job description identified several essential duties, but did not include a lifting requirement. The court also questioned whether the employee could perform the essential functions at the time of termination, and found a genuine issue of fact. At the time of the employee’s deposition, it was clear that he was no longer capable of several physically exerting activities; however, the defendant presented no evidence that the employee was unable to perform the job functions at the time of his termination, which was the relevant time period.

Rorrer v. City of Stow, 743 F.3d 1025 (6th Cir. Feb. 26, 2014)
The defendant terminated a firefighter who had lost vision in one eye, citing his inability to operate a fire apparatus. The Sixth Circuit found a genuine issue of fact regarding whether operating a fire apparatus/other vehicle was an essential function of the firefighter’s position. In so finding, the Sixth Circuit emphasized that the employer’s judgment about which tasks are essential are not “conclusive,” and noted that the district court erred when it only considered the employer’s judgment. Further, the employer argued that driving was an essential function per the National Fire Protection Association guidelines, but the Sixth Circuit held that there was a dispute about whether these guidelines were actually adopted. Finally, the Sixth Circuit explained that it may be a reasonable accommodation to reassign the task of driving, in light of the evidence that this task could have “easily” been performed by colleagues.

E.E.O.C. v. AutoZone, Inc., 707 F.3d 824 (7th Cir. 2013)
The Seventh Circuit affirmed a jury award of $100,000 in compensatory damages, $200,000 in punitive damages, and $115,000 in back pay in this ADA case. Here, the employee, a parts sales manager, asked to be relieved of the responsibility of mopping the floors due to back pain. Although this accommodation was granted initially, it was ultimately withdrawn. As a result, the employee experienced extreme back pain causing him to miss work and led to his termination. The Seventh Circuit held that the compensatory damages award was not excessive in light of the evidence of the employee’s physical pain. It also explained that the punitive damages award was appropriate because the managers failed to follow the Company’s prescribed procedure for addressing accommodations requests. Note that this decision was the second appellate victory for the EEOC in this case, as an earlier appeal reversed a summary judgment decision and led to the June 2011 trial. See EEOC v. AutoZone, Inc., 630 F.3d 635 (7th Cir. 2010).

Keith v. County of Oakland, 703 F.3d 918 (6th Cir. 2013)
The Sixth Circuit allowed a lifeguard to proceed in his claim for disability discrimination. The lifeguard, who is deaf, was offered a job, but failed his pre-employment physical examination because of his inability to hear. The Sixth Circuit said this case should be sent to a jury because the question of whether the lifeguard is “qualified” is a question of fact. In support of the lifeguard, experts testified that the ability to hear was not essential to the successful performance of lifeguard duties because swimmers in distress use hand motions to signal for help. The lifeguard also presented evidence that the world record for most lives saved by a lifeguard is held by a deaf individual.

Qualified: Conflicting Statements

Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corporation, 526 U.S. 795 (1999)
The Supreme Court considered whether pursuit and receipt of SSDI automatically estopped a recipient from pursuing an ADA claim, and concluded that it did not. Despite the “appearance of conflict” between the SSDI program and the ADA, the Court held that these two claims do not inherently conflict, and “there are too many situations in which an SSDI claim and an ADA claim can comfortably exist side by side.” The Court explained why a recipient of SSDI could still be qualified under the ADA, including: (1) the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not take into account the possibility of reasonable accommodations in determining SSDI eligibility; (2) an individual might qualify for SSDI under SSA’s administrative rules for specific impairments, but still be able to perform essential functions; (3) the SSA grants SSDI benefits to individuals who can work and are working through the trial-work period; and (4) the individual’s condition might have changed over time, so that a statement made at the time of his SSDI application is not an accurate representation at the time of the relevant employment decision.

Butler v. Village of Round Lake Police Department, 585 F.3d 1020 (7th Cir. 2009)
The defendant argued that the statements made in a police officer’s application for disability pension prevented him from establishing that he was qualified under the ADA. In support of his pension application, the police officer stated that his pulmonary condition made it impossible to do the required duties, such as chasing a suspect or wrestling with an unruly one. He also provided certificates of disability from three physicians, who noted that he was “permanently disabled from police service” with certain limited restrictions. In an attempt to save his ADA claim, the police officer argued that the statements made at his pension hearing referred to his then-current abilities as opposed to the earlier time frame. Rejecting this argument, the court found that the police officer failed to provide any evidence that he could have performed the essential functions of police work during those earlier time frames, especially in light of the fact that by the time that he stopped reporting to work, he could “barely walk a few blocks or climb stairs.” This case reminds litigants that they must be able to prove the underlying facts to explain the apparently inconsistent statements.

Reasonable Accommodations

U.S. Airways v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002)
In this Supreme Court case, an employee sought reassignment to a vacant position, but the employer claimed it would violate its policy granting reassignment by seniority, and thus, cause an undue hardship. The Supreme Court held that it would ordinarily be unreasonable (i.e. an undue hardship) for an employer to violate a consistently enforced seniority policy in order to place a person with a disability in an open position as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. This case established the principle that reassignment may be available to a worker despite a seniority policy if the individual can show the seniority provision was not strictly followed in other cases, as the Supreme Court calls reasonable accommodations “special” and “preferential.”

EEOC v. United Airlines, 693 F. 3d 760 (7th Cir. 2012)
United Airlines had a reasonable accommodation policy which stated that an employee could be transferred as a reasonable accommodation but that the transfer process remained competitive. The EEOC sued, claiming that the ADA requires employers to transfer employees with disabilities who can no longer do their current job to a vacant position for which they are qualified. When the Seventh Circuit first heard this case, it noted that the EEOC’s position was persuasive, but ultimately rejected its argument because of precedent in the Seventh Circuit to the contrary, EEOC v. Humiston–Keeling, 227 F.3d 1024 (7th Cir. 2000). However, the Seventh Circuit recommended that the EEOC seek a rehearing en banc, which would allow all of the Seventh Circuit judges to hear the case and decide if it should change existing precedent regarding the reasonable accommodation of reassignment. In this decision, the Seventh Circuit reheard this case and held that the ADA does indeed mandate that an employer appoint employees with disabilities to vacant positions for which they are qualified, provided that such accommodations would be ordinarily reasonable and would not present an undue hardship to that employer. As a result, no longer can employers just allow employees with disabilities to “compete” for the position, as under previous precedent. The Seventh Circuit stated that a change of precedent was warranted given the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. Airways, Inc. v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002), which held that accommodation through appointment to a vacant position is reasonable. As a result, it overruled its decision in EEOC v. Humiston–Keeling. Absent a showing of undue hardship, an employer must implement such a reassignment policy. In addition, on May 28, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court elected not to hear this case. See United Airlines, Inc. v. E.E.O.C., 2013 WL 2300817 (U.S. May 28, 2013).

Miller v. Illinois Department of Transportation, 643 F.3d 190 (7th Cir. 2011)
Plaintiff, a highway maintainer on a bridge crew, alleged that his employer discriminatorily refused his request not to work at high heights in exposed positions as a reasonable accommodation for his acrophobia. The court allowed plaintiff’s case to proceed finding that before plaintiff was diagnosed, the employer had informally provided the requested accommodation by allowing other crew members to perform non-essential tasks when plaintiff could not do so. Further, other crew members were often accommodated and excused from other duties. These past “accommodations” undercut employer’s argument that the plaintiff’s request was unreasonable.

E.E.O.C. v. Ford Motor Co., 2015 WL 1600305 (6th Cir. Apr. 10, 2015)
Reversing an earlier decision of the Sixth Circuit, an en banc panel held that “[r]egular, in-person attendance is an essential function—and a prerequisite to essential functions—of most jobs, especially the interactive ones.” As a result, the resale steel buyer was not qualified and her request to telework was not a reasonable accommodation.

Interactive Process

Bultemeyer v. Fort Wayne Community Schools, 100 F.3d 1281 (7th Cir. 1996)
An employee developed various mental health conditions during his employment as a custodian. The employee provided his employer with a note from his psychiatrist stating that it was in the employee’s best interest to work at a different school that would be less stressful. In his failure to accommodate case, the court found that the employee presented sufficient evidence to show that the employer may have failed to accommodate him and therefore that this claim could go before a jury. In reaching this decision, the court noted that both parties must participate in an interactive process to reach an appropriate reasonable accommodation. This process does not require an employee to say “‘I want a reasonable accommodation,’ particularly when the employee has a mental illness.” The employer must “meet the employee half-way” and work with the employee to determine what reasonable accommodation is appropriate when the employee expresses some desire for needing or wanting one.

Basden v. Professional Transport Inc., 714 F.3d 1034 (7th Cir. 2013)
The plaintiff had missed work on multiple occasions to see physicians to determine if she had Multiple Sclerosis. After being suspended for absenteeism, she requested an unpaid 30-day leave of absence. The employer denied this request, failed to engage in the interactive process, and fired plaintiff for missing work. Although the employer failed to engage in the interactive process, the court still granted summary judgment for the defendant. The Seventh Circuit upheld this decision, and explained that “[e]ven if an employer fails to engage in the required process, that failure need not be considered if the employee fails to present evidence… that she was able to perform the essential functions of her job with an accommodation.” In this case, there was no evidence that any reasonable accommodation would have enabled the plaintiff to perform her essential functions.

Inflexible Leave Policies

EEOC v. Supervalu, Inc., (N.D. Ill. - Settlement in 2011)
Supervalu agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle the EEOC’s ADA suit that claimed that the employer’s ‘One Year and You’re Out’ and ‘No Accommodation, No Restrictions’ rules violated the ADA. Supervalu also agreed to various forms of injunctive relief, including policy changes.

EEOC v. Sears Roebuck & Co., (N.D. Ill. – Settlement in 2010)
The EEOC asserted that Sears maintained an inflexible workers’ compensation leave policy, and terminated employees who exhausted their leave instead of considering accommodations, including an extension of their leave. In 2010, this case settled for $6.2 million.

Disability-Related Examination

Karraker v. Rent-A-Center, 411 F.3d 831 (7th Cir. 2005)
A group of current and former employees challenged an employer’s policy requiring employees seeking management positions to take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (“MMPI”), alleging that the MMPI can identify mental health conditions. The trial court held that the test did not violate the ADA because it was used for “vocational” purposes to predict future job performance and compatibility. The Seventh Circuit reversed, however, and held that the MMPI is a designed to diagnose mental illness, and thus, is a medical examination subject to the ADA’s restrictions on medical exams and inquiries. The Seventh Circuit held that the MMPI was, in fact, a medical examination. It further explained that the test tended to screen out people with mental illness, and it was irrelevant that the test was graded on a vocational scale, as opposed to a medical scale. The court also held that to have standing to challenge a medical examination as impermissible, a plaintiff is not required to be a person with a disability.

Kroll v. White Lake Ambulance Authority, 691 F.3d 809 (6th Cir. 2012)
An emergency medical technician was required to undergo psychological testing and see a mental health counselor after she was accused of several outbursts at her workplace. The question before the Sixth Circuit was whether this constituted a medical examination. Applying the EEOC’s seven factor test, the Sixth Circuit determined that this could have been a “medical examination” under the ADA. The Sixth Circuit also held that an employee does not need to actually submit to the demand to challenge it as unlawful.

Direct Threat

Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73 (2002)
An individual with Hepatitis C was not hired as his employer considered the employee a danger to himself because his liver condition may be exacerbated by exposure to toxins at work. The employee argued that the direct threat defense does not apply to threats to self. The ADA statute listed only “danger to others” as a defense, while the EEOC regulations listed danger to self. The Supreme Court upheld the EEOC’s regulations, finding that the direct threat analysis includes threat to self.

Branham v. Snow, 392 F.3d 896 (7th Cir. 2005)
An applicant with Type 1 Insulin Dependent Diabetes was denied a position as an IRS criminal investigator, and the IRS argued that the applicant posed a direct threat. After considering the duration of the risk posed, and the nature and severity of the risk, the Seventh Circuit ultimately found that the IRS failed to establish that the applicant posed a direct threat as a matter of law. Regarding the duration of risk, the IRS asserted that the applicant experienced significant long-term and short-term changes in his blood glucose levels that could affect his performance. The applicant, however, asserted that while diabetes cannot be “cured,” he can control the condition so effectively that there is no “real ... duration of risk.” The Seventh Circuit agreed with the applicant. Regarding the nature and severity of the risk, the IRS asserted that the drastic changes in blood sugar level could “significantly degrade [the applicant’s] abilities to function as a special agent, potentially endangering [the applicant], his colleagues and the public.” The applicant, however, argued that although the risks of severe hypoglycemia can include incapacitation, confusion, coma and death, he never has lost consciousness and he never has experienced physical or mental incapacitation as a result of mild hypoglycemia. Again, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the applicant and held that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that any hypoglycemia experienced by the applicant would not impair his ability to perform his duties.

Darnell v. Thermafiber, Inc., 417 F.3d 657 (7th Cir. 2005)
The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for an employer who did not rehire employee with insulin-dependent, Type 1 diabetes. The employer learned during the employee’s pre-employment physical that his diabetes not under control. The Seventh Circuit held that an employee is not qualified if his disability poses a direct threat to his safety or the safety of others. Here, because uncontrolled diabetes in a manufacturing plant with dangerous machinery could cause serious injury to himself, and because the employer relied on sufficient objective medical evidence and an individualized assessment in making its decision, the employer did not violate the ADA. See also, EEOC v. Rexnord Industries, 966 F. Supp. 2d 829 (E.D. Wisc. 2013) (okay to exclude employee with seizure disorder because threat to self).

Higher Education

Peters v. University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 2012 WL 3878601 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 6, 2012)
A medical student was dismissed from her school after some academic struggles. The school decided her history of depression would prevent her from sticking to a regimen that would allow her to be a good physician. She sued under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. The school argued that the plaintiff was not disabled due to her past success as a student. The court rejected this argument with the ADA Amendments Act, saying that the facts showed that she was able to succeed despite her disability. The court also rejected arguments that she was not qualified to be a medical student. The dean had repeatedly allowed other students to continue in the program despite their academic struggles. His comments that her dismissal was due to “a pattern of academic and psychiatric difficulties” could lead a jury to believe that academic standards were not the real reason why she was dismissed.

Argenyi v. Creighton University, 703 F.3d 441 (8th Cir. 2013)
A deaf medical school student filed suit after being denied various auxiliary aids and services. The district court granted summary judgment for the college, finding that the university met its burden of providing “necessary” auxiliary aids and services. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded this decision, explaining that the proper legal standard was whether the university provided auxiliary aids and services sufficient to afford the student “meaningful access” to the program. It held that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the university had provided the student with meaningful access, and allowed the student’s claim to proceed. On remand, a jury found that Creighton University failed to provide the student with meaningful access, and that providing such access would not have posed an undue burden on the school.

Criminal Justice

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206 (1998)
An inmate was restricted from attending a boot camp program due to hypertension, and filed suit under Title II of the ADA. The State argued that Title II does not apply because prisoners don’t receive “benefits of the services, programs, or activities.” The Supreme Court disagreed, and held that Title II of the ADA protects state prison inmates. It explained that modern prisons provide a variety of services, programs and activities that benefit prisoners. This case helped establish the principle that the ADA can still apply to entities that are not expressly mentioned in the Act, demonstrating the “breadth” of ADA.

Jaros v. Illinois Department of Corrections, 684 F.3d 667 (7th Cir. 2012)
A prisoner who used a cane due to his advanced osteoarthritis and vascular necrosis in his hip filed suit when he was unable to access showers and meals the same as non-disabled prisoners, and because he was denied access to the prison’s work release program because of his use of a cane. The court allowed the plaintiff to proceed in his Rehabilitation Act claims that the IDOC failed to accommodate his disabilities and that he was impermissibly denied participation in the prison’s work release program.

Community Integration

Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999)
The Supreme Court held that unwarranted institutionalization of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination under ADA. Since this decision, Olmstead has been applied to individuals at risk of institutionalization, in state-funded but privately operated facilities, and most recently to employment.

Grooms v. Maram, 2008 WL 2271492 (N.D. Ill. May 30, 2008)
The plaintiff has a rare progressive neuromuscular disease and received nursing care in his home from the State of Illinois. However, when he turned 21, he aged out of the Medicaid “waiver” program that the State had invoked to provide him with home services. A State physician had certified that all of the plaintiff’s services were medically necessary and cost neutral to the State, yet, on his 21st birthday, the State reduced the plaintiff’s benefits by more than half, which placed him at risk of institutionalization. He then sued under Title II of the ADA. Eventually, the court entered a permanent injunction ordering the State to restore the approved level of in-home nursing services. The court found that to provide the plaintiff with the services he had been receiving prior to turning 21 would not constitute a “fundamental alteration” under the ADA.

Colbert v. Quinn, 07 C 0747 (N.D. Ill. Consent Decree entered Dec. 20, 2012)
A class action was brought against Illinois state officials on behalf of approximately 20,000 people with physical disabilities and/or mental illness living in nursing homes in Cook County, Illinois. On December 20, 2011, a comprehensive Consent Decree was entered by the judge, which will allow qualified nursing home residents the opportunity to move into the community and receive the supports they need to be successful.

Williams v. Quinn, 2010 WL 3894350 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 29, 2010)
A class action was brought against Illinois state officials on behalf people with mental illness living in large private state-funded facilities known as Institutions for Mental Disease (IMDs). On September 29, 2010, a comprehensive Consent Decree was entered by the judge, which, over a five-year period, will allow all IMD residents (approximately 4500 people) who desire community placement to transition to the most integrated community-based setting. The decision is significant because it makes clear that the ADA and Olmstead applies to privately owned facilities that receive state funding.

Ligas v. Hamos, 05 C 4331 (N.D. Ill. June 15, 2011)
A class action was brought against Illinois state officials for their failure to provide sufficient community services on behalf of people with developmental disabilities who either live in large private state funded Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled (ICF-DDs) or who are at risk of living in such facilities. The parties agreed to resolve the case before trial, and on June 15, 2011, the judge entered a comprehensive Consent Decree. Under the Decree, any of the approximately 6,000 ICF-DD residents who desire placement in the community will transition to the most integrated community-based setting appropriate for their individual needs over a six-year period, and an additional 3,000 people with developmental disabilities currently living at home without services will also be given community services. Before the Consent Decree ends, the State must have a waiting list for serving people with developmental disabilities at a reasonable pace.

Title II: State Sovereign Immunity

Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509 (2004)
Two Tennessee residents with paraplegia were denied access to judicial proceedings because those proceedings were held in courtrooms on the second floors of buildings lacking elevators. The State argued that it was immune from Title II suits under the Eleventh Amendment, while the plaintiffs argued that there should at least be liability for injunctive relief. The Supreme Court held that Congress, in Title II, appropriately abrogated state sovereign immunity, and plaintiffs can bring ADA damage cases for denial of court access. It cited the extensive history of discrimination regarding public access, and documented the history of state-sponsored discrimination against people with disabilities in many different areas, including voting, education, institutionalization, marriage and family rights, prisoners’ rights, access to courts, and zoning restrictions.

Prakel v. State of Indiana, 2015 WL 1455988 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 30, 2015)
This case extended the Lane holding to court spectators. Here, a family member who is deaf was allowed to sue under Title II for denial of an interpreter in a case where his mother was a criminal defendant.

Brewer v. Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners, 270 Fed.Appx. 418 (7th Cir. 2008)
The Seventh Circuit held that the Wisconsin Board was immune from suit, as the ADA did not abrogate claims challenging attorney-licensing practices. It reasoned that there was no evidence of a history and pattern of disability discrimination in attorney-licensing.

Title III: Standing to Challenge Access Barrier and Continuing Violations Doctrine

Scherr v. Marriott International, Inc., 703 F. 3d 1069 (7th Cir. 2013)
The court allowed the plaintiff to bring a lawsuit regarding an allegedly inaccessible door in a Marriott bathroom even though the plaintiff filed suit after the statute of limitations period had passed. The Seventh Circuit held that the plaintiff alleged violations that were continuing because the door remained in existence, and thus, her claim was not barred even though she filed outside of Illinois’s two year statute of limitations period. The Seventh Circuit also found that the plaintiff had standing to sue the hotel because she demonstrated that she would use hotel in the future but for the inaccessible door design (but not the 56 other hotels with similar design).

Walker v. Asmar Center LLC, 2011 WL 5822394 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 21, 2011)
A wheelchair user sued a shopping center for lack of accessibility. The shopping center alleged that he could not bring suit because he lacked legal standing, and because he did not exhaust his administrative remedies before filing suit. The court rejected the shopping center’s argument that they did not need to provide wheelchair accessibility because the plaintiff might not return to their shopping center and because there is a closer, similar business to his home. The court also held that the plaintiff did not need to exhaust administrative remedies under Title III (i.e. filing with a state or federal administrative agency) because Title III does not have an exhaustion requirement.

Website Access

Doe v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., 179 F.3d 557 (7th Cir. 1999)
This lawsuit challenged an insurance policy’s cap on lifetime benefits for HIV-related conditions as discriminatory under the ADA because the policies had higher cap on other medical conditions. This decision has been important in the development of case law regarding whether the Internet is a place of public accommodation. Although the case was ultimately decided on different grounds, the Seventh Circuit stated: “The core meaning of [title III’s nondiscrimination provision, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a)], plainly enough, is that the owner or operator of a store, hotel, restaurant, dentist’s office, travel agency, theater, Web site, or other facility (whether in physical space or in electronic space) that is open to the public cannot exclude disabled persons . . .”.


Last Updated on:
Wed May 6, 2015