Jury finds man with depression not disabled, Fifth Circuit affirms

David Yates Nov. 11, 2013, 3:56pm

NEW ORLEANS - On Nov. 6, Texan Jeffrey Neely, who sought to appeal an adverse jury verdict, received no help from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, as justices ruled that jurors were allowed to conclude that he was not a qualified individual with a disability.

According to the court’s opinion, Neely was a control room operator for PSEG Texas, who, after a series of verbal altercations with his supervisors, was suspended and ultimately terminated. 

He was then diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder severe without psychosis, the case states.

Shortly thereafter, he filed suit against PSEG, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The case went to a jury on claims of discrimination, retaliation and failure to provide reasonable accommodations under the ADA, the opinion states.

During trial, Neely objected to two jury interrogatories, both of which were predicate questions to the termination and failure-to-accommodate claims and asked whether Neely was “a qualified individual with a disability.”

The jury answered “No” to both predicate questions and to the question regarding retaliation, prompting Neely to appeal, court papers say.

On appeal, Neely argued that the district court erred in submitting the questions, contending that the inclusion of the words “with a disability” is contrary to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, court papers say.

“Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in either jury interrogatory, there is no need to consider the two-part analysis to determine whether the error requires reversal,” states the Fifth Court’s opinion.

“No valid argument has been presented that the interrogatories did not adequately present the contested issues to the jury, so the judgment is affirmed.”

Case No. 12-51074

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