Former Employee’s Testimony on Disability Insufficient for ADA Claim

ADALast week, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a local emergency dispatcher terminated for excessive absenteeism after surgery to repair a broken leg does not have a valid Americans with Disabilities Act claim. The plaintiff’s failure to present expert evidence to show a disability caused her broken leg and subsequent absences was fatal to her claim. Felkins v. City of Lakewood (10th Cir. 2014).

The plaintiff, Cynthia Felkins, maintained she suffered from a condition called avascular necrosis, a disease that causes bone tissue death from low blood supply. Affirming summary judgment for the City of Lakewood, the court held that her own testimony, without more, was insufficient to prove an actual disability under the ADA.

Felkins argued that it was unnecessary for a plaintiff to present expert medical testimony under the ADA Amendments Act in order to prove the existence of a medical impairment meeting the definition of “disability.” But the court disagreed, stating that she could not show her condition caused her broken leg, surgical complications, and the alleged limitations of major life activities without such testimony.

“[T]he failure of proof on which our decision turns is that she has not provided proper evidence that any limitation she may have is caused by avascular necrosis,” Judge Harris L. Hartz wrote for the court.