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Michael Troeger v. Ellenville Central School District

August 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe Chief Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Michael Troeger commenced this action against the Ellenville Central School District ("the District"), alleging multiple violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).*fn1 (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) In a May 8, 2012 Memorandum-Decision and Order, this court granted in part and denied in part the District's motion for summary judgment. (See Dkt. No. 25.) As a result of that Order, Troeger's only remaining claim alleges failure by the District to accommodate his disability between November 7, 2007 and the end of the 2007-08 school year. (See id.) Pending is the District's motion for reconsideration. (See Dkt. No. 28.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted and Troeger's remaining claim is dismissed.

II. Standard of Review

"In order to prevail on a motion for reconsideration, the movant must satisfy stringent requirements." In re C-TC 9th Ave. P'ship v. Norton Co., 182 B.R. 1, 2 (N.D.N.Y. 1995). Such motions "will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked-matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). The prevailing rule "recognizes only three possible grounds upon which motions for reconsideration may be granted; they are (1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." In re C-TC 9th Ave. P'ship, 182 B.R. at 3(citation omitted). "[A] motion to reconsider should not be granted where the moving party seeks solely to re[-]litigate an issue already decided." Shrader, 70 F.3d at 257.

III. Discussion

The District contends that reconsideration is appropriate here for the purpose of correcting clear legal error in the court's underlying disability analysis. (See Dkt. No. 28, Attach. 2 at 4-10.) Specifically, it avers that the court erred, as a matter of law, in finding that a genuine factual dispute existed as to whether Troeger suffered a substantial limitation of a major life activity between November 7, 2007 and the end of the 2007-08 school year. (See id.) Upon reconsideration, the court agrees.

Under the ADA, "disability" means "(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities . . . ; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment." 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). Allegations of disability advanced under the first method require of the plaintiff: (1) a showing that he suffers from a physical or mental impairment; (2) identification of the supposedly-impaired major life activity; and (3) demonstration of substantial limitation of that activity. See Duttweiller v. Eagle Janitorial, Inc., No. 5:05-CV-0886, 2009 WL 1606351, at *18 (N.D.N.Y. June 4, 2009).

For purposes of the ADA, a physical impairment is "'[a]ny physiological disorder, or condition . . . affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological [or] musculoskeletal.'" Francis v. City of Meriden, 129 F.3d 281, 283 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(h)(1)). "[M]ajor life activities" include "functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working," as well as "sitting, standing, lifting, [and] reaching." Ryan v. Grae & Rybicki, P.C., 135 F.3d 867, 870 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Substantial limitation occurs where a plaintiff is "(i) [u]nable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform; or (ii) [s]ignificantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which [he] can perform a particular major life activity as compared to . . . the average person." Id. (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(1)). A proper substantial limitation analysis considers: "the nature and severity of the impairment; its duration or expected duration; and the existence of any actual or expected permanent or long term impact." Capobianco v. City of N.Y., 422 F.3d 47, 57 (2d Cir. 2005).

The physical impairment underlying Troeger's claim is a back injury which originated in 2004 and was allegedly exacerbated in October 2005. (See Def.'s Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶¶ 6, 23-25, Dkt. No. 12, Attach. 15.) After narrowing the disability determination to the question of substantial limitation,*fn2 the court, in its May 8 Order, erroneously found that a genuine issue of fact existed as to whether Troeger was substantially limited in his ability to perform the recognized major life activities of, "inter alia, lift[ing], sit[ting], stand[ing] and work[ing]." (Dkt. No. 25 at 13.)

A. Lifting

Although a determination of substantial limitation is fact specific, see Ryan, 135 F.3d at 872, certain lifting restrictions have been found by a number of courts to be, as a matter of law, insufficient. See, e.g., Cortes v. Sky Chefs, Inc., 67 F. App'x 66, 68 (2d Cir. 2003) (finding a ten pound lifting restriction insubstantial); McDonald v. City of N.Y., 786 F. Supp. 2d 588, 609 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (same, for twenty pounds); Glozman v. Retail, Wholesale & Chain Store Food Emps. Union, Local 338, 204 F. Supp. 2d 615, 621 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (same, for ten pounds); see also Colwell v. Suffolk Cnty. Police Dep't, 158 F.3d 635, 644 (2d Cir. 1998), superseded on other grounds by 42 U.S.C. 12102(3)(A), (finding insubstantial the inability of respective plaintiffs to lift "very heavy objects" or "anything heavy").*fn3

On November 17, 2006, approximately one year before the start of the relevant time period, orthopaedic surgeon Paul Jones opined in a school-ordered independent medical examination that Troeger "could work if he avoided bending and lifting more than about 10-15 pounds." (Dkt. No. 16, Attach. 18 at 2-4.) Troeger's physician, Dr. Megan McMullan, later indicated, in November 2007, that he "should be limited to lifting less than 20 pounds." (Dkt. No 16, Attach. 21 at 2.)

Because Troeger's lifting limitations fall within the range of restrictions which have been deemed insufficient as a matter of law, he has failed to establish a substantial ...

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