under the ADA. See Sutton, 119 S.Ct. at 2147-49. In view of
that holding, Defendant argues that there is no evidence that
Taylor was substantially limited in any major life activity while
Defendant's argument need not detain us long. In its August 18,
1999 opinion, the Third Circuit evaluated Defendant's argument in
light of the Supreme Court's announcements in Sutton and
Murphy. The Third Circuit began by accepting Plaintiff's
argument that "thinking" could be a major life activity.
Taylor, 184 F.3d at 307 ("We accept that thinking is a major
life activity."); see generally 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(i) & App.
(describing characteristics of major life activities). Then,
applying the new analytical framework of Sutton, the court
concluded that: "[Taylor] has presented sufficient evidence to
require a trial on whether she continued to be substantially
limited even while receiving treatment." Taylor, 184 F.3d at
309; see generally 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j) (defining
"substantially limited"). The Third Circuit's findings on these
issues are clear, and we remain bound by their holding.
We recognize that, since the Third Circuit's decision,
Defendant has engaged in further discovery on this issue,
including deposing Plaintiff, her son, and several physicians.
This intervening discovery, however, does not change the
fundamental nature of this case, nor does it render the Third
Circuit's findings inapposite. Taken in the light most favorable
to Taylor, we find that there are still genuine issues of
material fact as to whether Taylor is substantially limited in
any major life activities even while receiving treatment.
Accordingly, Defendant's Motion will be denied with respect
claims premised on actual disability.
2. Record of Impairment
Next, we consider whether Taylor is disabled under the ADA by
virtue of having a "record of impairment." See
42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(B). To meet this definition, an individual must have a
history of, or been misclassified as having, an impairment that
substantially limited a major life activity.
29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(k).*fn2
Taylor blends her "record of impairment" claim and her
"regarded as" claim together into a single argument. In doing so,
she fails to offer any specific evidence that she has a record of
an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. To
the contrary, her argument, and the evidence in support of that
argument, appear to apply solely to whether Defendant regarded
her as disabled. As described infra, "regarded as" disability
is a distinct way to establish a disability under the ADA, and we
will consider Taylor's evidence in support of that claim in turn.
However, for purposes of meeting the definition of a disability
by virtue of a "record of impairment," Taylor has failed to
provide sufficient evidence to support her claim. To the extent a
record of an impairment exists at all, nothing in that record
suggests that the impairment substantially limited a major life
activity. Such a showing is insufficient to establish disability
based upon a record of impairment. See 29 C.F.R.App. §
1630.2(k); see also Sorensen v. University of Utah Hosp.,
194 F.3d 1084, 1087 (10th Cir. 1999) (noting that, to demonstrate
record of impairment, impairment must substantially limit a major
life activity); Howell v. Sam's Club # 8160/Wal-Mart,
959 F. Supp. 260, 268 (E.D.Pa. 1997) (same), aff'd, 141 F.3d 1153
(3d Cir. 1998). As a result, we will grant Defendant's Motion
with respect to claims premised on "record of impairment"
3. Regarded as Disabled
Finally, we examine whether Plaintiff has established a
disability by virtue of having been "regarded as" disabled. See
42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(C). Under the ADA, a person is regarded as
having a disability if the person:
(1) has a physical or mental impairment that does not
substantially limit major life activities but is
treated by the covered entity as constituting such
(2) has a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits major life activities only as a
result of the attitudes of others toward such
(3) has [no such impairment] but is treated by a
covered entity as having a substantially limiting
29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(1).
In the instant case, we find that there is adequate evidence
for Plaintiff to withstand summary judgment on her "regarded as"
claim. Genuine issues of material fact exist concerning the
School District's initial notice of Taylor's ailment, its
understanding of Taylor's medical condition when she returned to
work, and its later conduct toward Taylor based on that
understanding. Viewing these facts in the light most favorable to
Taylor, we find that a reasonable jury may be able to conclude
that the School District regarded Taylor as disabled when she was
discharged. See, e.g., Deane, 142 F.3d at 145 (holding that
summary judgment inappropriate where factual disputes exist over
degree of impairment compared with perception thereof); see also
Taylor v. Pathmark Stores, Inc., 177 F.3d 180, 191 (3d Cir.
1999) (noting that "regarded as" plaintiff can make out a claim
even if employer is innocently wrong about extent of impairment).
Accordingly, we will deny Defendant's Motion with respect to
claims based upon regarded as disability.
B. Qualified Individual
Having found that factual disputes exist over whether Taylor is
disabled under the ADA, we must now examine the second element of
the prima facie case: whether Taylor is a "qualified individual."
The ADA defines a qualified individual as one "who, with or
without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential
functions of the employment position that such individual holds
or desires." 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8). The applicable regulations
divide this inquiry into two prongs: (1) whether the individual
has the requisite skill, experience, education and other job
requirements of the position and (2) whether the individual, with
or without reasonable accommodation can perform the essential
functions of the position. See 29 C.F.R.App. § 1630.2(m). No
question exists about whether Taylor satisfies the prerequisites
of her position. Rather, the dispute centers on whether Taylor
could, with reasonable accommodations, perform the essential
functions of her job after returning from her hospitalization.
In examining this issue, the Third Circuit focused its analysis
on the interactive process engaged in by Taylor and the School
District. The ADA's regulations state that:
To determine the appropriate reasonable accommodation
it may be necessary for the [employer] to initiate an
informal, interactive process with the [employee] in
need of accommodation. This process should identify
the precise limitations resulting from the disability
and potential reasonable accommodations that could
overcome those limitations.
29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(o)(3). The Third Circuit analyzed the
interactive process in two steps: first, whether sufficient
notice was given to the School District to trigger its
obligations under the interactive process, and second, whether
the School District fulfilled its duties once the interactive
process was initiated. Taylor, 184 F.3d at 312-13. Addressing
these two inquires, the court found that sufficient notice was
given to the School District to trigger the interactive process
and that the School District later failed to fulfill its duties
that process. Based on that finding, the court concluded that "a
reasonable jury could conclude, based on the evidence presented
thus far, that the school district did not meet its burden under
the interactive process." Id. at 315. The court further stated
that "a reasonable jury could conclude that the school district
did not engage in an interactive process of seeking
accommodations and is responsible for the breakdown in the
In its current motion, Defendant argues again that it neither
had notice of Plaintiff's need for accommodation, nor failed to
engage in the interactive process. However, as noted above, the
Third Circuit has already determined that factual disputes exist
with respect to those issues. Moreover, nothing in the subsequent
discovery resolves any of the factual disputes surrounding the
interactive process. As a result, summary judgment is
inappropriate, and we will deny Defendant's Motion with respect
to this issue.
In sum, we find that Plaintiff has produced sufficient evidence
that she (1) has a disability by virtue of being "actually
disabled" or having been "regarded as" disabled; (2) is a
qualified individual; and (3) has suffered an adverse employment
action. Accordingly, Plaintiff has made out a prima facie case on
her failure to accommodate claim.*fn3
III. Punitive Damages
Finally, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's request for punitive
damages cannot, as a matter of law, be granted. We agree.
It is clear that punitive damages under the ADA are not
available against a municipality. 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(a)(2),
(b)(1). See also City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc.,
453 U.S. 247, 267-71, 101 S.Ct. 2748, 69 L.Ed.2d 616 (1981) (holding
that punitive damages not available against municipalities in
case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983), Bolden v. Southeastern Pa.
Transp. Auth., 953 F.2d 807, 811 (3d Cir. 1991) (holding that
punitive damages not available against SEPTA in case brought
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Waring v. City of Philadelphia, Civ.
A. No. 96-1805, 1996 WL 208348, at *3 (E.D.Pa. Apr. 26, 1996)
(stating that, under the ADA, "it is clear that a party may not
seek punitive damages from a municipal entity."). Similarly,
punitive damages under the PHRA are not available against
municipalities. Hoy v. Angelone, 554 Pa. 134, 720 A.2d 745, 751
(1998) ("we hold that punitive damages are not available under
the [PHRA]."); see also Feingold v. Southeastern Pa. Transp.
Auth. 512 Pa. 567, 517 A.2d 1270, 1276-77 (1986) (concluding
that it would be "inappropriate to assess punitive damages
against SEPTA given its status as Commonwealth agency."). In this
case, it is undisputed that the School District is a municipal
entity. As a result, punitive damages are not, as a matter of
law, available against the School District. See § 1981a(a)(2);
Newport, 453 U.S. at 270, 101 S.Ct. 2748; Hoy, 720 A.2d at
751. Accordingly, we will grant Defendant's motion on the issue
of punitive damages.*fn4
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part. Defendant's
Motion will be granted with respect to claims premised upon
"record of impairment" disability and with respect to punitive
damages. Defendant's Motion will be denied in all other respects.
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this 19th day of September, 2000, upon consideration
of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and the replies
thereto, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendant's Motion is GRANTED
in part and DENIED in part.
Defendant's Motion is GRANTED with respect to claims premised
on 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(B) ("record of impairment") and on the
issue of punitive damages. Defendant's Motion is DENIED in all