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Steere v. George Washington University

March 22, 2005

ERIC STEERE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court in this Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case is defendants' motion [28] for summary judgment. Also pending is plaintiff's motion [32] for extension of time to file a response to defendants' summary judgment motion. The court will grant nunc pro tunc plaintiff's motion for extra time and, for the reasons set forth below, will grant in part and deny in part defendants' summary judgment motion.

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT FRAMEWORK

Summary judgment is appropriate when the motion papers, affidavits, and other submitted evidence demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Whether a fact is "material" is determined in light of the applicable substantive law invoked by the action. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In light of the applicable substantive law, a "genuine issue of material fact" is a fact that is determinative of a claim or defense, and therefore, affects the outcome of the case. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issues of material fact are in dispute. Upon such a showing, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that genuine issues of material fact are in dispute. The Court is precluded from weighing evidence or finding disputed facts and must draw all inferences and resolve all doubts in favor of the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Eric Steere was once a medical student at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences ("School"). The School admitted plaintiff for the fall 2000 term. The School dismissed plaintiff from the School in 2003.

The School publishes a bulletin that sets forth academic requirements, circumstances that would subject a student to risk of dismissal, and the process that the School takes when considering whether to dismiss a student. Failing and conditional grades put students at risk for dismissal. Failing grades are given to students who have not met a department's minimum requirement and who could not meet that requirement through remedial work. Conditional grades are given to students who have not met a department's minimum requirement but who could meet that requirement after remedial work. Students are subject to dismissal for various shortcomings, including the receipt of two grades of failing or conditional during the first semester of the first year or one such grade after previously being at risk of dismissal.

Decisions to dismiss students are made by the School's Dean after a hearing. The School has a Medical Student Evaluation Committee ("MSEC") that makes advisory recommendations to the Dean about whether to dismiss students who are at risk of dismissal because of poor academic performance. To formulate its recommendations, the MSEC meets with at-risk students, reviews their academic records, and reads any written statements that these students submit. The Dean's decision concerning dismissals shall be in writing.

Plaintiff began his studies at the School in fall of 2000. Due to poor grades in his first semester, Dean Williams, on the advice of the MSEC, requested that plaintiff take leave and return to repeat the entire first-year curriculum in fall of 2001. On his second try, plaintiff passed his first semester classes but received a grade of conditional in Physiology during the spring 2002 semester. Due to the conditional grade, Dean Williams, of the advice of the MSEC, required plaintiff to pass Physiology during the summer, which plaintiff did. After all this, plaintiff met with academic trouble once more, in fall of 2002, when he failed Pharmacology and received a conditional grade in Microbiology. Plaintiff came before the MSEC one final time in January 2003. The board recommended dismissal. Dean Williams ultimately adopted that recommendation on April 1, 2003, but not before plaintiff submitted, for the first time, neuropsychological test results from his psychologist, Dr. Kaplan, indicating that plaintiff suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder ("ADD") and a mathematics learning disability. At about that time, plaintiff requested accommodations from the School. Dean Williams gave no weight to plaintiff's disability report, stating that his decision was based on plaintiff's poor academic performance and that he was adopting the recommendation of the MSEC.

Plaintiff currently attends the American University of the Carribean School of Medicine ("AUC"). He began his studies at AUC in May of 2004. He was approved for testing accommodations and receives time-and-a-half on examinations. During his first semester, he completed his courses, courses covering similar subject matter as those at the School, with passing grades.

III. ANALYSIS

Defendants move for summary judgment on the ADA claim, arguing that plaintiff was not otherwise qualified as a medical student at the School and that the School did not discriminate. Defendants also argue that plaintiff's request for damages be struck and that the individually named defendants be dismissed. Finally, defendants ask the court to dismiss plaintiff's pendant negligent misrepresentation claim.

Plaintiff has brought suit under the ADA. Section 302 of Title III of the ADA provides that:

No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation. 42 U.S.C. ยง 12182(a). To establish a violation of this provision, plaintiff must prove: "(1) that she has a disability; (2) that she is otherwise qualified for the benefit in question; and (3) that she was excluded from the benefit due to discrimination because of the disability." Kaltenberger v. Ohio College of Podiatric Med., 162 ...


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