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Pisani v. Conrad Industries Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

February 1, 2018

THAYER A. PISANI
v.
CONRAD INDUSTRIES, INC.

         BY CONSENT OF THE PARTIES

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          PATRICK J. HANNA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Currently pending is the motion for summary judgment (Rec. Doc. 29), which was filed by the defendant, Conrad Industries, Inc. The motion is opposed. Oral argument was held on January 25, 2018. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, the motion is DENIED.

         Background

         In his complaint, the plaintiff asserted a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, contending that he was discriminated against on the basis of a perceived disability when his employer failed to allow him to return to work following a medical leave of absence.

         The plaintiff, Thayer A. Pisani, was employed by the defendant, Conrad Industries, Inc., as a crane operator. Mr. Pisani has a history of degenerative disc disease in his spine. In 2006, this condition caused numbness in his arms and hands as well as migraine headaches and resulted in his having surgery. After recovering from the surgical procedure, Mr. Pisani returned to work. In October 2015, Mr. Pisani began experiencing symptoms related to his cervical spine. He took a medical leave of absence, during which he treated with a neurologist, Dr. Edward Haight. When the leave period was scheduled to end, Mr. Pisani was still undergoing physical therapy, and Conrad agreed to extend his leave to accommodate the ongoing physical therapy. On January 15, 2016, Dr. Haight cleared Mr. Pisani to return to work without restrictions. However, Conrad's HR director Shane Alfred required that Mr. Pisani also be cleared to return to work by the company doctor, Dr. Robert M. Bourgeois who has a specialty in occupational medicine.

         On January 18, 2016, Dr. Bourgeois declined to clear Mr. Pisani to return to work but also indicated that further evaluation of Mr. Pisani's condition was required, and he requested additional medical records. On that same date, Dr. Adolpho Cuadra of the Headache & Pain Center, cleared Mr. Pisani to return to work. On February 1, 2016, Conrad terminated Mr. Pisani's employment. The next day, Conrad's HR director instructed Dr. Bourgeois to discontinue his review of Mr. Pisani's records. Thereafter, neurologist Dr. Damon E. Patterson also opined that Mr. Pisani was capable of returning to work.

         Conrad now seeks summary judgment in its favor, arguing that Mr. Pisani's ADA claim should be dismissed because Conrad had an objectively reasonable concern, at the time of Mr. Pisani's termination, that Mr. Pisani would pose a direct threat to its work force if he returned to work as a crane operator.

         Law and Analysis

         A. The Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the applicable governing law.[1] A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could render a verdict for the nonmoving party.[2]

         The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that demonstrate the absence of genuine issues of material fact.[3] If the moving party carries its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of a material fact.[4] All facts and inferences are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[5]

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by pointing out that there is insufficient proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim.[6] The motion should be granted if the nonmoving party cannot produce evidence to support an essential element of its claim.[7]

         B. Factual Issues ...


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