Pleading Disability

Source: Joseph Seiner, Boston College Law Review, Vol. 51, 2010

From the abstract:
A significant failure. That is how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been described by legal scholars and disability advocates alike. The statute, which was widely expected to help prevent disability discrimination in employment, has not fully achieved its intended purpose because of the ADA’s narrow interpretation in the courts. Congress recently sought to restore the employment protections of the ADA by amending the statute. Interpreting the complex and comprehensive amendments to the ADA will be a difficult task for the federal courts, which struggled to consistently apply even the original statutory terms. Complicating matters further, the proper pleading standard for disability claims was left in disarray after the Supreme Court’s decision in Twombly v. Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007), which altered fifty years of federal pleading precedent. The courts have widely applied Bell Atlantic-a complex antitrust case-to the disability context, but have done so in an inconsistent manner. The amendments to the ADA, combined with Bell Atlantic, have created a significant amount of confusion in pleading disability claims.

This Article performs an analysis of several hundred federal district court opinions, examining the impact of the Bell Atlantic decision on ADA claims. Attempting to provide clarity to disability pleading, this Article proposes a unified analytical framework for alleging disability discrimination, which satisfies the recent Supreme Court case law, the amendments to the ADA, and the federal rules. The analytical framework proposed by this Article would streamline the pleading process for disability claims, and provide a blueprint for litigants and courts in analyzing cases brought under the revised ADA. The paper concludes by exploring the possible implications of adopting the proposed model.

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