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U.S. Court in Puerto Rico Finds Plaintiff with HIV Failed to Prove He Was 'Disabled' Under ADA


HLD, v. 29, n. 9 (September 2001)

U.S. Court in Puerto Rico Finds Plaintiff with HIV Failed to Prove He Was "Disabled" Under ADA

Plaintiff Cruz Carrillo was a flight attendant infected with human immunodeficiency virus ("HIV"). Carrillo brought an action in federal district court against his employers, AMR Eagle, Inc. and Executive Airlines, Inc. (collectively "defendants"), alleging they terminated him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") after finding out about his HIV status. Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law at the close of Carrillo's case in chief.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico granted defendants' motion and dismissed the action. Under the ADA, a person is disabled if he has "'a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of [his] major life activities.'" See 42 U.S.C. � 12102(2)(A)(1995). Applying the three-part analysis set forth by the Supreme Court in Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624 (1998), HLD, v. 26, n. 8, at p. 16, the court determined that Carrillo was not disabled for purposes of the ADA. First, the court concluded that Carrillo's HIV infection was an impairment under the ADA. Next, relying on Carrillo's testimony that he had decided not to have children because of his HIV status, the court found that for Carrillo "reproduction is a major life activity." Finally, the court turned to whether the impairment "'substantially limits'" the major life activity claimed by Carrillo. The court concluded that Carrillo failed to show a substantial limitation. Unlike Bragdon, where the Court relied on objective medical evidence about the risks associated with an HIV infected woman having a child, Carrillo presented no evidence "from which a reasonable jury could find that HIV substantially limits a man's ability to reproduce." In so holding, the court rejected Carrillo's argument that he met the "'substantially limits'" requirement because his HIV status removed his incentive to reproduce. Thus, the court concluded that Carrillo was not disabled within the meaning of the ADA.

The court also rejected Carrillo's two other claims under the ADA: failure to reasonably accommodate and discriminatory discharge. The court found that Carrillo's letter to defendants asking them "'to discuss [his HIV status] under strict confidentiality'" was not a request for accommodation. Because Carrillo never requested an accommodation, the court dismissed the claim as meritless. Turning to the discriminatory discharge claim, the court found that Carrillo failed to establish that his termination was motivated by discriminatory animus, noting "ample evidence of a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for plaintiff's dismissal," namely Carrillo's poor attendance record and a passenger complaint against him. The court was not persuaded by the fact that Carrillo was terminated one day after informing defendants of his HIV status. Accordingly, the court dismissed all claims against the defendants.

Carrillo v. AMR Eagle, Inc., No. 99-2029 (D.P.R. June 28, 2001) (8 pages).

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