Bipolar Physician Has ADA Standing to Sue for Medical Staff Privileges
In Haas v. Wyoming Valley Healthcare System, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania concluded that a physician had standing under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 5.04 of the Rehabilitation Act concluded that an independent contractor physician had standing to sue for denial of medical staff privileges, but also concluded that the physician did not satisfy the "otherwise qualified" conditions for protection.
In an interesting twist, the Trial Court rejected the jury decision awarding Dr. Haas $250,000.00, entered judgment as a matter of law on behalf of the hospital, and denied the physician’s motion for attorney’s fees based upon the jury verdict as moot.
Dr. Haas was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1994 during his residency. He underwent treatment, completed his training, and obtained privileges at Wyoming Valley Health System in 2000. Dr. Haas suffered an episode during surgery in 2001 which resulted in his taking a leave of absence and seeking additional treatment. Dr. Haas applied for reinstatement, which application was granted by the hospital on the condition that Dr. Haas essentially utilize a "co-surgeon" during his operations. Dr. Haas’ request that this condition be eliminated was rejected and he filed suit against he hospital. The text of the opinion appears below.
There are two basic legal issues, i.e. whether Dr. Haas had standing as an independent contractor to seek protection under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act and whether Dr. Haas satisfied the conditions of those statutes.
The court concluded that Title III of the ADA and Section 5.04 of the Rehabilitation Act applied to individuals, regardless of their employee or independent contractor status, unlike Title I of the ADA which applies to employment situations.
Granting standing, the court then analyzed whether Dr. Haas was entitled to the benefits of these public accommodations because his disability could be reasonably accommodated. The court agreed with the hospital that the only reasonable accommodation would be that imposed by the hospital, i.e. a orthopedic co-surgeon to oversee and assume responsibility of the case in the event of any problem. Otherwise, the court agreed with the hospital that Dr. Haas posed a direct threat to patient care.
Therefore, the court concluded that it was not discriminatory treatment to require Dr. Haas to satisfy the additional conditions of his appointment, which Dr. Haas was unable to do.