ADA Case Law: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirms Nova Southeastern University’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint of discrimination for failure to state a claim. This is a new case that continues to build on the topic of “otherwise qualified individual”. It’s good to know that case law continues to deepen on this important defense for our institutions.
The student, J.A.M. had experienced four periods of severe depression combined with extreme alcohol use resulting in hospitalization. The court held that “It is axiomatic that a medical student with alcohol problems would have to abstain from alcohol in order to complete his studies. Nova placed alcohol-related conditions on J.A.M. that were necessary to facilitate the successful completion of his coursework.” “J.A.M. alleged that his major depressive disorder constituted a mental disability. But J.A.M. did not allege that he was dismissed because of his mental disability. Rather, he alleged that he was dismissed because he breached his agreement to abstain from alcohol consumption. At best, Nova discriminated on the basis of J.A.M.’s alcohol-related behavioral misconduct, not his disability. As such, J.A.M. failed to allege that Nova discriminated against him on account of his disability and, therefore, failed to state a claim under Title III.” The court further stated, “Again, it is self-evident that J.A.M.’s requested accommodations—repeated medical leaves of absence for extended amounts of time, exam rescheduling, and excusal of misconduct—would fundamentally alter his course of study and the skills learned therein. Nova was under no obligation to provide accommodations that would fundamentally alter the nature of its osteopathic medicine program.”