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WILLMORE v. AMERICAN ATELIER

November 24, 1999

THEODORE W. WILLMORE, SR.
v.
AMERICAN ATELIER, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Theodore Willmore, instituted this suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et. seq. ("ADA") seeking both monetary damages and reinstatement to his former position with American Atelier, Inc. as a furniture scruffer. Defendant has now filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that, (1) plaintiff is not a disabled person within the meaning of the ADA and, (2) its decision to terminate his employment was due solely to his insubordinate and belligerent behavior on the day of his termination. For the reasons which follow, the motion for summary judgment shall be granted.

Factual Background

According to the averments in his complaint, Theodore Willmore, Sr. was hired by American Atelier, Inc. on May 4, 1998. A short time later, on June 3, 1998, Mr. Willmore contends that he seriously injured his back when he fell while working but he apparently nevertheless continued to work. On June 22, 1998, the plaintiff somehow injured his hands while working, and was terminated later that same day. By this lawsuit, Plaintiff contends that Defendant terminated his employment because of his hand and back injuries and that since these injuries effectively disabled him, his termination was therefore in violation of the ADA.

Standards for Summary Judgment Motions

  The standards to be applied by the district courts in ruling on
motions for summary judgment are set forth in Fed. R.Civ.P. 56.
Under subsection (c) of that rule,

   . . . The judgment sought shall be rendered
  forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
  interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
  with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
  genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
  moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
  law. A summary judgment, interlocutory in character,
  may be rendered on the issue of liability alone
  although there is a genuine issue as to the amount of
  damages.

Pursuant to this rule, a court is compelled to look beyond the bare allegations of the pleadings to determine if they have sufficient factual support to warrant their consideration at trial. Liberty Lobby, Inc. v. Dow Jones & Co., 838 F.2d 1287 (D.C.Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 825, 109 S.Ct. 75, 102 L.Ed.2d 51 (1988); Aries Realty, Inc. v. AGS Columbia Associates, 751 F. Supp. 444 (S.D.N.Y. 1990).

Generally, the party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with any affidavits, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In considering a summary judgment motion, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences from the facts must be drawn in favor of that party as well. U.S. v. Kensington Hospital, 760 F. Supp. 1120 (E.D.Pa. 1991); Schillachi v. Flying Dutchman Motorcycle Club, 751 F. Supp. 1169 (E.D.Pa. 1990).

Where, however, "a motion for summary judgment is made and supported [by affidavits or otherwise], an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the adverse party does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against [it]." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The non-moving party must raise "more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" in order to overcome a summary judgment motion and it cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions or beliefs in attempting to survive such a motion. Tziatzios v. U.S., 164 F.R.D. 410, 411, 412 (E.D.Pa. 1996) citing Celotex v. Catrett, supra, 477 U.S. at 325, 106 S.Ct. at 2553-54, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510-11, 91 L.Ed.2d 202; Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3rd Cir. 1989).

Discussion

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits certain employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their disabilities. Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 527 U.S. 471, 119 S.Ct. 2139, 2143 (1999). The core anti-discrimination section of the ADA provides that:

In light of the preceding definitions, the Courts have held that disability discrimination cases, like other types of employment discrimination, are to be analyzed under the burden shifting framework first articulated in McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973) and Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA, the plaintiff must therefore show three elements: (1) that he is a disabled person within the meaning of the ADA; (2) that he is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations by the employer; and (3) that he has suffered an otherwise adverse employment decision as a result of discrimination. Taylor v. Phoenixville School District, 184 F.3d 296, 306 (3rd Cir. 1999); Gaul v. Lucent Technologies, Inc., 134 F.3d 576, 580 (3rd Cir. 1998).

Turning to the first prong of the prima facie case, we must initially determine whether or not Mr. Willmore is a disabled person within the meaning of the ADA. Under 42 U.S.C. ...


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