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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Supreme Court Supports Dismissal of Discrimination Lawsuit


U.S. Supreme Court Building concept image with a gavel and open law book. | Image by DNY59

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The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with a lower court in dismissing a lawsuit filed by a legally blind and deaf woman against a physical therapy business based in North Texas.

The lawsuit was put into motion after Jane Cummings, born deaf and legally blind, contacted Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C. — a physical therapy services provider — to treat the chronic back pain she had been suffering from.

Cummings, who communicates primarily through American Sign Language, requested that Premier Rehab Keller provide her with an ASL interpreter. 

Premier denied Cummings’ request, saying she could communicate with the therapist through other means like written notes, lip-reading, or gesturing.

Premier’s refusal to grant Cummings request prompted her to file a lawsuit claiming the service provider discriminated against her based on her disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Cummings sought equitable relief and compensation for emotional distress under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Texas Human Resources Code.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas dismissed the complaint after Premier Rehab filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The District Court ruled that the only injuries Cummings suffered were emotional distress, frustration, and humiliation and that such damages were not recoverable. 

 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling on appeal.

Cumming then took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court on August 21, 2020.

In a 6-3 opinion delivered on April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the previous court’s ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that emotional distress damages are not recoverable under the Spending Clause anti-discrimination statutes in this case.

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