Case Summaries: Maryland Summaries

Newsletter Volume: 
Newsletter - January/February 2012
January

Maryland Court of Appeals Finds Severe Latex Allergy to be a Protected Disability

Meade v. Shangri-la P'ship, No. 128, Sept. Term 2008 (Md. Jan. 26, 2012).

The Court of Appeals reversing the Court of Special Appeals found that a severe latex allergy was a disability, and reinstated the jury verdict in favor of the Plaintiff. In this case, Lisa Meade, a parent of a 2-year old son, objected to the use of powdered latex gloves at her son’s pre-school due to Ms. Meade’s severe latex allergy. Efforts to get the school to change its practices failed, and Ms. Meade sued for discrimination based on her “handicap”.

Highlights include:

1. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and reinstates the jury verdict. The Court of Special Appeals had reversed the jury verdict in favor of Meade on her claims of handicap discrimination and retaliation on the grounds that she did not have a "handicap" within the meaning of Md. Code Art. 49B s 42 and the Howard County Code.

2. The Court of Appeals rejected the application of ADA caselaw, specifically Toyota Motor Mfg., Ky., Inc. v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002) and Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 527 U.S. 471 (1999), to construe the Maryland state and county disability discrimination laws.

3. The Court of Appeals rejected the "demanding standard for qualifying as disabled."

4. The Court of Appeals again relied on Haas v. Lockheed Martin, 396 Md. 469, 914 A.2d 735 (2007) for the proposition that Maryland courts should construe Maryland statutes on their own "plain meaning" terms, and not simply rely on federal decisional law construing federal statutes.

5. The Court of Appeals noted the Congress explicitly repudiated Toyota Motor and Sutton with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

6. The Court of Appeals recognized that socialization and parenting are major life activities.

7. The Court of Appeals recognized that a severe latex allergy can constitute a "handicap."

8. The Court of Appeals awarded costs to the Petitioner, even her costs at the Court of Special Appeals where she lost.

9. The Court of Appeals directed the Circuit Court to consider Petitioner's request for appellate attorney's fees. (Appellate counsel was not trial counsel.)

– submitted by Julie Martin-Korb

Notably, MWELA and MELA joined with the Public Justice Center 3 years ago (!) in submitting an amicus brief (with other organizations, such as the MDLC, and the Maryland Nurses Association) that provided a substantial demonstration of the wayward course of law taken by the Supreme Court and other courts interpreting the old ADA, such as (when considering whether an individual is "substantially limited") consideration of the disability only in a mitigated state, failure to make an individualized inquiry concerning the limitation, and failing to recognize as a substantial limitation a disability that is temporal or intermittent. Amici urged the Court of Appeals to instead stay true to an appropriately broad interpretation of Court of Special Appeals consistent with its purpose and plain terms. So this is a yet another win for MWELA and MELA too!

The decision is available online at: http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/CourtofAppeals/2012/128a08.pdf.

The MWELA, et al. amicus brief, co- authored by Jonathan Puth (MWELA) and Matthew Hill (of the Public Justice Center), is online at: http://www.mwela.org/docs/MWELABriefAmicus200901-Meade-v-ShangriLa.pdf .

Newsletter Volume: 
Newsletter - January/February 2012
January