Friday, April 16, 2021
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Did you know that Obamacare includes provisions that allow people to sue over certain forms of disability discrimination? It does. The Affordable Care Act does many things, but it also allows for certain lawsuits. Like this one. The question here is what is the statute of limitations. The answer is four years.
The case is Vega-Ruiz v. Northwell Health, issued on March 24. Plaintiff is hearing-impaired. She accompanied her brother to the hospital and requested a Spanish-speaking sign-language interpreter to help fulfill her duties as her brother's proxy as he underwent surgery. She was denied the sign-language interpreter and instead given someone who communicated to her through written notes and lip reading.
The case does not ask whether plaintiff has a case under the ACA. The question is whether she waited too late to bring this lawsuit, three years and three months after the incident. The district court dismissed the case, holding the statute of limitations is three years because her case was made possible by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a disability discrimination statute which carries that deadline.
The Court of Appeals (Newman and Pooler) says this is really an ACA case, not a Rehabilitation Act case. The ACA does not articulate a statute of limitations. In the face of such an omission, the courts look to a law that Congress passed in 1990, 28 U.S.C. 1658(a), which provides a catch-all statute of limitations for laws that don't have one. The deadline under Section 1658(a) is four years for any act of Congress that was enacted after December 1, 1990.
The Court takes the time to examine the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Affordable Care Act to determine what statute really applies in this case for purposes of the statute of limitations. It looks like the ACA provides greater rights to plaintiffs than the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. And, the Court holds that ACA plaintiffs have a different case than those brought under the ADA. That means the plaintiff has a four-year statute of limitations, and her case is timely.
Monday, April 12, 2021
Drawing all inferences in Ketcham’s favor, as required when considering a summary judgment motion, a reasonable factfinder could determine that Patterson, who acknowledged he did not feel that he was in any danger, unnecessarily threw Ketcham against a wall, placed him in overtight restraints despite his protestations, and deliberately pushed Ketcham’s head into the car door. We have held in similar cases that this type of judicial evidence weighing constitutes reversible error.
we have never held that a court may grant summary judgment to officers on an excessive force claim merely because the injuries were. minor even where the force was unreasonable. Any such holding would violate the rule announced in Graham and would grant a windfall to officers who commit misconduct but could escape liability based upon the hardiness of their victims. While the absence of serious injury is certainly a matter that the jury can consider in assessing both the reasonableness of the force and potential damages from any misconduct, a district court should not grant summary judgment on this basis alone.
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Evidence fabrication claim is revived on appeal as Court of Appeals says trial court misled the jury
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Every dispute must end one way or another. One unhappy ending for the plaintiff is collateral estoppel, which means that a state court says something happened between the parties, the losing party in that case cannot bring another lawsuit in a different court that would challenge that initial adverse finding. So that plaintiff loses twice. This case shows us how it all works.
The case is Watley v. Department of Children and Families, issued on March 22. Plaintiffs are the parents of a child who was the subject of child neglect proceedings in Connecticut. The mother has significant disabilities, including narcolepsy, schizotypal personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, etc. The state claimed the mother was not capable of raising the child, and sought to terminate her parental rights. The mother ultimately lost that battle. The plaintiffs then had two boys, and the state sought to terminate those parental rights under a "predictive neglect" theory, which I have never heard of but is self-explanatory. The plaintiffs lost their rights over the boys under state-law proceedings, as well. While the plaintiffs' defense to these proceedings invoked their disabilities, the state proceedings rejected those arguments on the basis that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not create special obligations in either termination or neglect proceedings.
After the parents lost their cases in Connecticut court, they sued in federal court under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, claiming their rights under these statutes were violated, and they wanted a TRO to get the children back. They lost in the district court and appealed to the Second Circuit, which holds the factual findings in the state proceedings are binding on the federal court and cannot be challenged in the federal forum.
That brings us to collateral estoppel. Under that rule, you cannot challenge state court findings in federal court when the state court resolved the same or a similar issue as the federal claim. The key to collateral estoppel is the identity of the issues in the state and federal cases. This is why the plaintiffs lose on that theory. While the state court proceedings did not consider the ADA or Rehabilitation Act defenses, they did consider the parent's mental condition in resolving this dispute. In other words, the arguments that plaintiffs advance in federal court were, for all intents and purposes, already resolved in the state court proceedings. So the plaintiffs lose.
A sad case all around, as the Court of Appeals (Pooler, Parker and Lynch) recognizes at the end of the opinion. But the Court notes that the Full Faith and Credit Clause under the Constitution compels this result and implicitly recognizes the collateral estoppel principle.