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Newman v. GHS Osteopathic

July 17, 1995


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil Action. No. 94-0060).

Before: Mansmann, Greenberg, and Sarokin, Circuit Judges.

Author: Greenberg


GREENBERG, Circuit Judge.

In this case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-12117 (ADA), Jeffrey B. Newman appeals from the district court's October 20, 1994 order entering judgment against him and in favor of GHS Osteopathic, Inc.-Parkview Hospital Division, following a bench trial. The appeal raises significant issues regarding compliance with discovery obligations and the burden of proof under the ADA. We will affirm.


We largely draw our statement of the facts from the district court's opinion. Prior to the layoff that led to this lawsuit, Newman worked as a physical therapy aide in Parkview's rehabilitation department. Newman suffers from a form of nocturnal epilepsy, and he takes medication several times a day to prevent the onset of seizures. The medication makes Newman drowsy, and therefore he sought to combine the 30-minute lunch break and the two 15-minute morning and afternoon breaks which Parkview granted into one hour-long break. Newman used this hour to nap and negate the medication's side effects. Although Parkview's policy prohibited bunching the breaks, several other employees combined them as well.

In May 1992, Kamille Sprenkle of Rehab America, an independent contractor agency, began working with Parkview's Director of the Rehabilitation Department to assist in supervising and running the department. Soon thereafter, she began enforcing the policy against combining the breaks.*fn1 When Newman protested that he needed to combine the time for medical reasons, Sprenkle referred him to Jennifer Brown, Parkview's director of human resources. Brown, in turn, told Newman that to be exempt from the policy, he would need authorization from a hospital physician. Brown also agreed to exempt Newman from the policy pending the medical evaluation. App. 447. A physician "subsequently recommended that [Newman] be allowed to continue combining his breaks because such bunching was a reasonable medical necessity." App. 448.

Beginning in 1992, the hospital's financial situation began to deteriorate, and it instituted a reduction in hours for much of its staff, including Newman. Later that year, the hospital began planning more cuts, including layoffs. In February 1993, Ernest Perilli, Parkview's associate executive director of operations, determined that one full-time nonprofessional position in the rehabilitation department should be eliminated, and he consulted Sprenkle (who was on maternity leave) for assistance. She in turn recommended that Parkview eliminate the position of full-time physical therapy aide. Newman was the only employee holding that position. Effective February 19, 1993, the hospital laid off Newman and six other employees.

On February 5, 1994, Newman filed a complaint against Parkview in the district court, alleging that its decision to lay him off constituted unlawful discrimination under the ADA. Specifically, Newman alleged, among other things, that his layoff resulted from Sprenkle's irritation with his medical need to combine the breaks. He contended that "upon [his] exercise of his ability to continue his break consolidation, Ms. Sprenkle became belligerent in attitude with him." Br. at 5. He further supported his complaint with certain allegations of actions that occurred after the layoff, which he contended demonstrated that Parkview's proffered reasons for his layoff were pretextual.*fn2

During pretrial discovery, Newman propounded interrogatories on Parkview seeking identification of each person Parkview believed had knowledge of his claims and each person it intended to call at trial. Newman also sought to learn the substance of each prospective witness' testimony. Parkview responded by, among other things, referring to its self-executing disclosures, objecting to the scope of the interrogatory requests, and stating that it had not identified its trial witnesses. Its self-executing disclosures stated that:

Defendant believes the following persons are reasonably likely to have information that bears significantly on the claims or defenses in this matter:

Jennifer M. Brown

Plaintiff's job performance; the Hospital's attempts to accommodate Plaintiff's alleged disability; Hospital-wide layoff of February, ...

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