On July 10, 2008, in Candy Wilson v. Alamosa School District, Case No. 06-cv-00607-WDM-CBS, Benezra & Culver prevailed on a disability discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act on behalf of its client, Candy Wilson.
Plaintiff Candy Wilson is a nearly 25-year employee of Defendant. For approximately six years she was employed as the Associate Principal at Alamosa High School. During the trial, all witnesses testified that Ms. Wilson had been an outstanding employee with no history of discipline.
In the spring of 2004, Ms. Wilson received a transfer and promotion to the position of Principal at one of the District’s middle schools. However, soon after receiving that transfer, Ms. Wilson began experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, including anxiety attacks. When Ms. Wilson informed the District’s Superintendent of that fact, Defendant misinterpreted the severity of Ms. Wilson’s health issues. Based on its erroneous belief that Ms. Wilson suffered from significant mental health problems and risked a nervous breakdown, Defendant rescinded its decision to promote Ms. Wilson to the Principal position, removed her from her position as Associate Principal at the high school, and banned Ms. Wilson from all school property and activities.
At trial, Ms. Wilson proved that Defendant’s actions against Ms. Wilson were taken because it “regarded” Ms. Wilson as suffering from a disability in violation of the ADA, even though Ms. Wilson did not in reality suffer from such a disability. While a disability discrimination claim based on a misperception of disability is permitted under the statute itself, Plaintiff’s counsel believed that this is the first such verdict in the District of Colorado in favor of a plaintiff on a “regarded as disabled” claim.
After a four-day trial, on July 10, 2008, a seven-person jury returned a verdict in favor of Ms. Wilson. After an appeal was filed and withdrawn, a settlement was reached where the School District paid Ms. Wilson $313,000 in damages and $120,000 in attorney fees.