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Federal appellate court finds that temporary leg injuries constituted disability under the ADA

Yesterday, the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a court based in Virginia, held that an employee was disabled under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because of severe injuries he sustained to his legs that were temporary. The employee fell on a train platform and required multiple surgeries to repair the damage to his legs. He was unable to walk normally for seven months but eventually recovered to the point where he could walk normally again. The Fourth Circuit overturned the decision of the trial court which had held that the employee’s leg injury could not be a disability under the ADA because it was temporary.

The ADA was amended in 2008 to make the definition of disability broader. The Fourth Circuit noted that under the old version of the ADA, the employee at issue in this case would not have had a disability because of the temporary nature of his leg injuries.

The Fourth Circuit is the first federal appellate court to address the issue of whether a temporary condition, such as a leg injury, may constitute a disability under the amended version of the ADA. However, the EEOC, which is a federal agency that enforces the ADA, has issued regulations that interpret the ADA’s definition of disability to include temporary conditions. The Fourth Circuit relied heavily on those regulations in its decision and there is a good chance that the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Maine, would do the same with a similar case.

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