The opinion of the court was delivered by: KIM GIBSON, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case comes before the Court on Hanger Prosthetics and
Orthotics, Inc., formerly known as Teufel Associates (hereinafter
"Defendant"), Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 14)
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. In consideration
of the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Randall T.
Kurten's (hereinafter "Plaintiff") Response to Motion for Summary
Judgment (Document No. 20), and the record in the case sub
judice, the Court shall deny the Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment for the following reasons.
Jurisdiction is proper in the United States District Court for
the Western District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331
based on federal question jurisdiction. Specifically, the
Plaintiff has brought a claim under the Americans with
Disabilities Act (hereinafter "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12111, et
seq. Jurisdiction is also invoked pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1343(4); and a notification of dismissal and right to sue letter
was issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on or
about December 22, 2003. (Document No. 1, Exhibit A). FACTUAL and PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The Plaintiff was employed by the Defendant for approximately
ten years from May 1993 until April 19, 2003. (Document No. 21).
Initially hired by Teufel Associates in 1993, the Plaintiff
performed the duties of an orthotist.*fn1 (Document Nos. 13,
22, Exhibit B). Some of his duties as an orthotist included
"measuring patients for braces, fitting braces, and providing
in-service instruction to nursing staffs, therapists and
When the Plaintiff was hired by Teufel Associates, the
Plaintiff informed Robert Teufel (hereinafter "Teufel"), then
owner and manager of the area practice offices of Teufel
Associates, that he "had a non-job related disability which
required reasonable work accommodations." (Document No. 21).
Specifically, the Plaintiff told Teufel that on May 22, 1979, the
Plaintiff was involved in a car accident and sustained head
trauma injury. Id. The Plaintiff also confided that in June
1979, he was diagnosed with cognitive disabilities as a result of
the closed head trauma injury. Id.
The Plaintiff asserts that one of the manifestations of his
cognitive disabilities is limited memory. (Document No. 21). For
example, the Plaintiff states that when he is pressured, he does
not remember anything. (Document No. 15, Exhibit A, p. 69). Some
of this pressure arises when the Plaintiff observes "tons of
patients waiting for [him]". Id. Consequently, as pressure
mounts, the Plaintiff claims that his short term memory fails,
and he does not remember "things that [he] should be picking up
on." Id. at p. 70. The Plaintiff also states that he experiences gaps in his long
term memory. (Document No. 15, Exhibit A, p. 70). For instance,
the Plaintiff does not remember anything from his childhood.
Id. Indeed, from week to week, the Plaintiff claims that he
does not remember certain things. Id. at pp. 70-71. The
Plaintiff also states that his daily life is affected by his
cognitive disabilities in that he often has difficulty
interacting with others because he is unable to recall recent or
distant events during conversation. (Document No. 21).
Nevertheless, the Plaintiff is able to perform the day to day
functions of maintaining a household. (Document No. 15, Exhibit
A, p. 51). For example, the Plaintiff cuts the grass, performs
manual tasks around the house, and pays the bills. Id.
Additionally, the Plaintiff states that despite his cognitive
disability, he was able to graduate from high school and continue
his education to become a certified orthotics technician. Id.
In September of 1985, the Plaintiff received a diploma for
completing 900 hours of schooling and testing in occupational
proficiency. (Document Nos. 21, 15, Exhibit A, p. 55). In 1989,
the Plaintiff passed "the test necessary to acquire a Certificate
of Occupational Proficiency for North East Metro Technical
Institute."*fn2 (Document No. 21). Later in January of 2000,
the Plaintiff took a practical exam and written exam to become a
registered technician. (Document No. 15, Exhibit A, p. 56).
The Plaintiff states that during his employment while Teufel
was his supervisor from 1993 through the summer of 2001, the
Plaintiff communicated with Teufel about how his cognitive
disability affected his ability to perform his job. (Document No.
15, Exhibit A, p. 79). Specifically, during conversations between
the Plaintiff and Teufel, the Plaintiff stated that Teufel acknowledged the need for a tape player to help the Plaintiff
detail his patient progress notes. Id. Consequently, although
the Plaintiff and Teufel discussed these accommodation, "nothing
ever got accomplished." Id.
During Plaintiff's employment, while Teufel was Plaintiff's
supervisor, two performance reviews indicate that Plaintiff's
performance ratings were "Good" or "Very Good" on all criteria.
(Document No. 21). Additionally, there is no evidence that
Plaintiff was ever given a poor performance rating, or that he
was unable to perform the duties of his position as an orthotist.
In March of 1998, Teufel sold Teufel Associates to Hanger
Prosthetic and Orthotics, Inc. (hereinafter "Hanger"). (Document
No. 13). From March 1998 until approximately the summer of 2001,
Teufel remained as the area practice manager and supervisor for
Hanger. Id. Then in 2001, Gary Reinhold (hereinafter
"Reinhold") became the Plaintiff's supervisor. (Document No. 21).
From the time the Plaintiff was hired by Mr. Teufel until 2001,
when Mr. Teufel was replaced as area practice manager by Mr.
Reinhold, the Plaintiff "was provided with some work
accommodations." Id. For example, the Plaintiff was provided
with an office assistant and a dictaphone. (Document No. 21).
Specifically, the "office assistant would complete patient
paperwork, would schedule patients, and would assist with patient
notes." Id. The dictaphone also helped the Plaintiff to
memorialize conversations with patients so that the Plaintiff did
not forget scheduling matters. Id.
When Reinhold assumed the supervisory role, the Plaintiff
asserts that Plaintiff's accommodations were "no longer
reasonably maintained." (Document No. 21). In particular, the
Plaintiff claims that the "individuals acting as his office
assistants were constantly changing." Id. From approximately
March of 1998 until April of 2002, the Plaintiff was provided
with six office assistants to ensure that paperwork, scheduling, and notes were
properly preserved and organized. (Document No. 21). Although
provided these accommodations, the Plaintiff claims that the
short-lived employment of these six assistants did not meet the
reasonable accommodation standards of the ADA. Id. More
specifically, the Plaintiff notes the short employment histories
of the six assistants as follows:
(1) [Assistant at] East Shore Office, left go
approximately May 1999; (2) [Assistant at] West Shore
office, left in December 2000; (3) [Assistant at]
Elizabethtown Office, January to August 2001; (4)
[Assistant at] West Shore office, left in December
2001; (5) [Assistant at] East Shore office, left in
January 2002; and (6) [Assistant at] Elizabethtown
Office, until April 2002.
(Document No. 21). Consequently, the Plaintiff alleges that the
failure to provide a consistent assistant to handle his
scheduling matters did not conform to Plaintiff's request for
The Plaintiff also alleges that his termination in April of
2002 was the result of Reinhold's discriminatory animus regarding
the Plaintiff's cognitive disabilities. (Document No. 21).
According to the Plaintiff, the performance evaluations provided
by the Defendant as reasons for terminating the Plaintiff are the
direct consequence of Defendant's failure to make reasonable
accommodations for his disability. For example, the first
memorandum of August 17, 2000 refers to Plaintiff's failure to
deliver a brace at Chambersburg Hospital. Id. A second
memorandum of August 23, 2001 refers to Plaintiff almost missing
an "in service" at Carlisle Hospital. Id. These and other
conclusions drawn by the Defendant "that Plaintiff must have
forgotten something, displayed poor competence, or was incapable
of performing the job", are allegedly false conclusions drawn by
the Defendant and improperly acted upon by dismissing the
Plaintiff from employment. Id. On February 2, 2004, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint against
the Defendant, alleging that the Defendant denied equal
employment opportunities to the Plaintiff because of the
Plaintiff's disability in violation of
42 U.S.C.S. Section 12112(a). (Document No. 1).
On February 1, 2005, the Defendant filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment, asserting that the Plaintiff's claim should be denied
as a matter of law for the following reasons: (1) Plaintiff has
not established that he is "disabled" under the ADA; (2)
Plaintiff was discharged for a legitimate, non-discriminatory
reason; and (3) Plaintiff cannot prove pretext for a claim of
intentional disability discrimination. (Document Nos. 14 & 17).
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) provides that summary judgment may be
granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving
party, "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."
The mere existence of some factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment. A dispute over those facts that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law,
i.e., the material facts, however, will preclude the entry of
summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Similarly, summary judgment is improper so long
as the dispute over the material facts is genuine. Id. In
determining whether the dispute is genuine, the court's function
is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the
matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
non-moving party. Id. at 248-49. In summary, the inquiry under
a Rule 56 motion is whether the evidence of record presents a genuine dispute regarding material facts so as to require
submission of the matter to a jury for resolution of the factual
dispute, or whether the evidence is so one-sided that the movant
must prevail as a matter of law.
To demonstrate entitlement to summary judgment, the moving
party is not required to refute the essential elements of the
cause of action. The moving party needs only to point out the
absence or insufficiency of the evidence offered in support of
those essential elements. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). Once that burden has been
met, the non-moving party must identify affirmative evidence of
record that supports each essential element of his cause of
action. A non-moving party may not successfully oppose a summary
judgment motion by resting upon mere allegations or denials
contained in the pleadings, or by simply reiterating those
allegations or denials in an affidavit. Lujan v. National
Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). Rather, the non-moving
party must offer specific evidence found in the record that
contradicts the evidence presented by the movant and indicates
that there remain relevant factual disputes that must be resolved
at trial. See id. If the non-moving party does not respond in
this manner, the court, when appropriate, shall grant summary
judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).
Accordingly, it is on this standard set forth above that the
Court has reviewed Defendant's Motion for ...