Smith v. PFS Fitness LLC
A jury can find that a plaintiff is disabled under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act even if the plaintiff does not present evidence of a medical diagnosis of disability. The plaintiff sued the defendant, alleging that she was discharged because of discrimination on the basis of disability. Allegedly, the plaintiff suffered from severe plantar fasciitis, a chronic condition that involves inflammation of the band of tissue that runs from the heel along the arch of the foot. At trial, there was no medical evidence concerning a diagnosis or the recommendation that the plaintiff use a wheelchair. The plaintiff testified she used a wheelchair for four months and then crutches and a cane. Doctors testified about their observations of the plaintiff and their treatment. The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to prove she was disabled, although the defendant's witnesses corroborated that the plaintiff required assistance to enter and to exit her motor vehicle. The jury's interrogatories indicated that the jury concluded that the plaintiff proved that she was qualified to perform her job, that she suffered from a physical disability and that the disability constituted a motivating factor in the decision to discharge. The jury awarded economic damages of $172,641 and non-economic damages of $70,000. The defendant moved to set aside the verdict. A physical condition that requires the use of a wheelchair, then crutches and a cane, meets the statutory requirements for disability, although the plaintiff did not provide evidence of a medical diagnosis. The jury reasonably could have found the plaintiff was discharged as a result of disability discrimination, and the court denied the motion to set aside. The defendant also moved for a remittitur and argued the jury wrongly awarded the plaintiff more economic damages than the plaintiff requested. Apparently, the jury considered the plaintiff's loss of wages up to the time of trial, although the plaintiff's attorney referenced the plaintiff's damages to the end of 2011. "It was the jury's right," wrote the court, "to award the additional dollars based upon the evidence submitted at trial." The court denied the defendant's motion for a remittitur.