United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
DIANNE K. VAN ROSSUM, Plaintiff,
BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND, Defendant.
J. HAZEL United Stales District Judge.
K. Van Rossum ("Plaintiff") filed suit against her
former employer. Baltimore County. Maryland (the
"County" or "Defendant"), claiming that
the Defendant, through its agents, violated provisions of the
Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") of 1990, as
amended. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.
Following a jury trial and judgment in favor of the Plaintiff
on all counts, the Defendant now submits a Motion for
Judgment as a Matter of Law; or. in the Alternative, Motion
for a New Trial. See ECF No. 134. The issues have
been briefed, P, CT No. 134-1. ECF No. 143. ECF No. 144. and
no hearing is required. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For reasons explained below. Defendant's motion
will be denied.
a jury trial held from January 23. 2017 through January 30.
2017. the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs
claim that the Defendant violated provisions of the ADA
regarding physical symptoms she suffered from while working
in her assigned workspace.See ECF No. 126. Specifically,
the jury found that 1) Defendant failed to provide Plaintiff
with a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, 2) Defendant
discriminated against Plaintiff because of her disability,
and 3) Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff because of her
protected activity of seeking accommodation. Id. The
jury awarded the Plaintiff $250, 000 in compensatory damages
and $530, 053 in economic damages. Id. Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a)(2). the Defendant moved
for Judgment as a Matter of Law at the close of Plaintiffs
ease. The Court denied the motion on the record. See
KCF No. 141 25:1-5. ECF No. 141 36:9-12.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Defendant renews its Rule 50(a)(2) motion pursuant to Rule
50(b). or in the alternative, moves for a new trial pursuant
to Rule 59. "In ruling on a motion for judgment as a
matter of law. the court is to inquire whether there is any
'legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable
jury to find for" the opponent of the motion."
Weisgram v. Marley Co., 528 U.S. 440. 453 (2000)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1)). In doing so. the Court is to
"assume that testimony in favor of the non-moving party
is credible, 'unless totally incredible on its
face." and ignore the substantive weight of any evidence
supporting the moving party." Clime v. Wal-Mart
Stores. Inc., 144 F.3d 294. 301 (4th Cir. 1998)
(internal citation omitted).
party makes a motion for judgment as a matter of law before
the case is submitted to the jury, and the court does not
grant the motion, the court is "considered to have
submitted the action to the jury subject to the court's
later deciding the legal questions raised by the
motion." and the moving party may file a renewed motion
within 28 days after the entry of judgment. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 50(b). In ruling on the Defendant's renewed
motion, this Court may "(1) allow judgment on the
verdict, if the jury returned a verdict: (2) order a new
trial: or (3) direct the entry of judgment as a matter of
law, " Id. Alternatively, this Court may grant
a motion for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(a) if "(1} the verdict is against the clear
weight of the evidence, or (2) is based upon
evidence which is false, or (3) will result in a miscarriage
of justice, even though there may be substantial evidence
which would prevent the direction of a verdict."
Cline. 144 F.3d at 301.
Defendant claims that the "pretrial rulings by the
Court, trial rulings, evidence, jury instructions and answers
to questions on the verdict sheet led to a verdict
unsupported by law and evidence." See ECF No.
134-1 at 6. Specifically, the Defendant asserts that
the evidence does not support the jury's determination
that 1) the Plaintiff can both receive an award of Social
Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") from the
Social Security Administration ("SSA") and make a
successful claim against the Defendant under the ADA, 2) the
Defendant took an adverse employment action against the
Plaintiff, and 3) the Plaintiff was entitled to economic and
compensatory damages. Each of these assertions is addressed
bring a claim against an employer for failure to make a
reasonable accommodation for a disability under the ADA.
Plaintiff must be a "qualified individual."
See 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A). The ADA defines
qualified individual as "an individual who. with or
without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential
functions of the employment position that such individual
holds or desires." § 12111(8). The Defendant
asserts that the Plaintiff was not a qualified individual
that could work with a reasonable accommodation because when
applying for SSDI benefits, she indicated that she was too
disabled to work. See ECF No. 134-1 at 9-10.
previously described by Judge Bredar. the Supreme Court, in
Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., 526
U.S. 795, 797-798 (1999) "provided clear guidance with
respect to the SSDI/ADA scenario." ECF No. 62 at 7.
Judge Bredar summarized that guidance. noting:
As the Court explained, "when the [SSA] determines
whether an individual is disabled for SSDI purposes, it does
not take the possibility of' reasonable
accommodation" into account, nor need an applicant refer
to the possibility of reasonable accommodation when she
applies for SSDI." Nevertheless, the Court recognized
that, in some cases, a prior SSDI claim may genuinely
conflict with an ADA claim: accordingly, the Court held that
"an ADA plaintiff cannot simply ignore the apparent
contradiction that arises out of the earlier SSDI total
disability claim" but must instead "proffer a
sufficient explanation" from which a reasonable juror
could conclude that-assuming the truth of. or the plaintiffs