Fourth Circuit holds man with 30 lb. lifting restriction not disabled

By Brian Peterson
Bowles Rice LLP
Nov 17, 2005

In Taylor v. Federal Express, No. 04-2056 (4th Cir. Nov. 16, 2005) (PDF), summary judgment in favor of Fed Ex was affirmed where the plaintiff was found not to be disabled under the ADA since he retained the ability to engage in a wide range of daily activity and to work in numerous jobs.

The plaintiff, who suffered from a back injury, showed through a vocational expert that his impairment precluded him from 1,871 kinds of jobs and "locked him out of the job market." However, the vocational evidence also showed that "he qualified for over 1,400 different types of jobs and over 130,000 actual jobs in the Baltimore-Washington region."

The Fourth Circuit wrote that

To hold that in the face of such evidence a factfinder could conclude that Taylor was substantially limited in the major life activity of working would be to ignore the Supreme Court’s recent directive in Toyota [Motor Mfg., Ky., Inc. v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184, 200 (2002). There the Court emphasized that the terms "substantially limits" and "major life activity" "need to be interpreted strictly to create a demanding standard for qualifying as disabled."Toyota, 534 U.S. at 197; see also Mahon v. Crowell, 295 F.3d 585, 592 (6th Cir. 2002) (holding that evidence that plaintiff’s impairment caused a 47 percent loss of access to the job market was insufficient to establish a disability). Given that Taylor admittedly retains the ability to engage in a wide range of daily activity and to work in over 100,000 jobs in his geographic region, a reasonable juror could not find that his impairment substantially limits his ability to work, or for that reason renders him disabled for purposes of the ADA.

Interestingly, the Court also noted that "The district court assumed without deciding that working is a major life activity under the ADA. The Supreme Court has expressly declined to resolve this question. See Toyota Motor Mfg., Ky., Inc. v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184, 200 (2002); Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 527 U.S. 471, 492 (1999). Because this case does not require us to decide the issue, we too will simply assume that working is a major life activity."

Someone really needs to challenge that point. Nearly every ADA case we see uses "working" as the major life activity that is "substantially impaired."