When the loader he was driving got stuck in the mud, plaintiff Matthew Head?s employer fired him for? causing ?damage ?to ?the ?vehicle.?? ?Head ?sued under the ADA alleging various disability discrimination (depression and bipolar disorder) claims and retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation. ?The trial court granted summary judgment on his disability and record of disability claims because while Head submitted numerous affidavits and other evidence, he did not submit medical or comparative evidence that his disability substantially impaired any major life activities. Reversing, the Court held that such evidence is not required at the summary judgment stage because ?a plaintiff?s testimony may suffice to establish a genuine issue of material fact.?? ?Head alleged sufficient evidence to demonstrate a substantial impairment in sleeping, interacting with others, thinking, and reading. ?On his perceived disability discrimination and retaliation claims, a jury entered a verdict against him.? ?Head appealed the verdict on the grounds that the trial court: ?(1) sustained an objection to lay witness testimony about whether Head?s?? damage? ?to?? the?? loader?? violated? ?his employer?s equipment abuse policy; and (2) erred by refusing to give the ?motivating factors? jury instructions of a mixed-motive claim and instead gave instructions that Head must meet a higher standard by proving that he was fired ?because of? his perceived disability or request for accommodation.? ?Finding that the lay testimony would not have assisted the jury, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court?s evidentiary ruling. However, the Court held that its decision in Costa v. Desert Palace, Inc., 299 F.3d (9th ?Cir. 2002), aff?d? 539? U.S.? 90? (2003),? on? jury ?instructions applies to ADA actions and that a properly instructed jury could have found a mixed motive. Because the error was not harmless, the Court reversed the jury verdict and remanded for another trial, ruling that each party shall bear its own costs on appeal.? ?Head v. Glacier Northwest, Inc., No. 03-35567? (07/06/05; ?Nelson, ?Rawlinson, Schwarzer sitting by designation from the Northern District of California).
Reading is a ?Major Life Activity? and Costa v. Desert Palace Applies to ADA Actions
Jul 6, 2005