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Law School Case Brief

Bragdon v. Abbott - 524 U.S. 624, 118 S. Ct. 2196 (1998)


42 U.S.C.S. § 12102(2) defines disability as: (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such impairment. 


Respondent Sidney Abbott was infected with human immunodeficiency virus ("HIV"), which was in the asymptomatic phase. At that time, she visited the office of petitioner Randon Bragdon, D.M.D., a dentist, for a routine examination; Abbott disclosed her infection to Bragdon. During the examination, Bragdon discovered a cavity and informed Abbott of his policy against filling cavities of HIV-infected patients in his office. Bragdon offered to perform the work at a hospital at no extra charge, though Abbott would have had to pay for use of the hospital's facilities. Abbott declined and filed a lawsuit against Bragdon in the United States District Court for the District of Maine, alleging, among other matters, that Bragdon violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 12182(a), which prohibited discrimination against any individual on the basis of disability in the enjoyment of the services of any place of public accommodation. On the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted Abbott's motion and denied Bragdon's motion. On Bragdon's appeal, the court of appeals affirmed. Bragdon was granted a writ of certiorari.


Was Abbot's HIV infection a disability under the ADA?




The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part the appellate court's judgment. The Court affirmed that part of the judgment that determined that Abbott's HIV was a disability under the ADA even though her infection had not yet progressed to the symptomatic phase. The Court held that HIV was an impairment from the moment of infection that substantially limited Abbott's ability to reproduce, which was a major life activity. However, the judgment was vacated and remanded to the appellate court to give that court the opportunity to determine whether the Court's analysis of some of the medical studies cited by the parties during trial would change the appellate court's conclusion that Bragdon presented neither objective evidence nor a triable issue of fact on the health risks associated with his treatment of Abbott.

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