Monday, April 12, 2010

employment - ADA - effects of medication

Sulima v. Dept. of the Army - 3d Circuit - April 12, 2010

A “disability” under the ADA can encompass an impairment resulting solely from the side effects of medication, whether or not the underlying health problems are disabling, following the decision of the 7th Circuit, which and held that these side effects may, under certain conditions, constitute a disabling impairment under the ADA. See Christian v. St. Anthony Med. Ctr., 117 F.3d 1051, 1051-52 (7th Cir. 1997).

The District Court here adopted the reasoning of the Seventh Circuit, but found that the side effects experienced by plaintiff did not constitute a disabling impairment, because he did not satisfy his burden under the Christian standard, which recognized as disabling the effects of a treatment for a condition that is not itself disabling, as long as the plaintiff can show that (1) the treatment is required “in the prudent judgment of the medical profession,” (2) the treatment is not just an “attractive option,” and (3) that the treatment is not required solely in anticipation of an impairment resulting from the plaintiff’s voluntary choices. Christian, 117 F.3d at 1052.

The lower court assumed, arguendo, that plaintiff had adequately shown that the medication’s side effects actually constituted a substantial limitation on a major life activity, but even so found that plaintiff was not disabled, because the medications were not “medically necessary," because plaintiff's doctor discontinued the medication after he was made aware of the problematic side effects. There was no contrary evidence to rebut the evidence that the medication was not required “in the prudent judgment of the medical profession,” as required by the Christian test. Christian, 117 F.3d at 1052. In addition, the two-month period between the side effects beginning and the doctor discontinuing the medications — assuming they could be deemed medically necessary during that time — was not a long enough duration to qualify for “disability” under the ADA.