8th Circuit decision in St. Martin v. City of St. Paul will have limited effect on disability discrimination claims

The 8th Circuit’s decision in St. Martin v. City of St. Paul will likely have minimal effect because it applied law that was expressly overturned by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

St. Martin was a firefighter who injured his knee in a work accident. After a knee replacement he returned to a lighter duty job as a fire inspector where he continued to be employed. Plaintiff presented evidence that he would be unable to work as a firefighter, a fire captain,  a commercial vehicle inspector and doing landscaping work. The court relied on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Sutton v. United Airlines to find that plaintiff was required to show  he could not do a “broad class of jobs.” The Court found plaintiff did not show he was disqualified from a broad class of work.

However the complained discriminatory acts took place before the effective date of the ADA Amendment Acts of 2008, so the court applied the old law.

When Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 is that Congress explicitly intended to broaden the definition of disability that had been narrowed by Sutton, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams and their progeny in the lower courts. Under the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, St. Martin likely would have at least proven disability because he could show that he could not do a class of jobs.

In any remaining claims under of  the “old” ADA arising from  a workers compensation claim in Nebraska,  plaintiff’s might be able to satisfy the requirements of St. Martin through the use of a loss of earning power report that might have already been prepared in a workers compensation case. Of course loss of earning power reports are not normally done by plaintif’s in single scheduled member cases such as St. Martin. There is nothing stopping a plaintiff from preparing a loss of earning report based off restrictions from a scheduled member case. However, preparing a loss of earning power report would add more expense to the case and create discovery and admissibility issues.  Plaintiff’s should tailor their written discovery and depositions  questions directed to towards management to obtain information about the classes of jobs the employee would be disqualified from because of their disability.


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