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Summary judgment may be granted to a moving party if there is no genuine issue of material fact. The facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Summary judgment cannot be issued if there exist any factual issues that need to be decided before the legal issues can be.
Plaintiff’s decedent, Raymond Vadnais, brought a suit alleging discrimination in violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the "Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, along with two state-law claims. Decedent claimed that defendant Dr. Vernick, a staff member at Beth Israel Hospital, refused to perform elective ear surgery on him because he had tested positive for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), associated with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Decedent claimed to have suffered severe pain in his right ear, which pain was prolonged because of the defendants' failure to perform surgery. A year after, decedent died of AIDS-related illnesses. Prior to decedent’s death, defendants had filed motions for summary judgment. The motions were stayed to allow defendants to file a motion to dismiss on the ground that the federal cause of action abated with decedent’s death. The motion was denied in part, and the executor was allowed to maintain the present suit to seek compensatory, but not punitive, damages. The summary judgment motions were before the court.
Should summary judgment be granted on the § 504 claim?
The court noted that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act stated that no otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. In this case, the court held that summary judgment on the § 504 claim was inappropriate because the receipt of Medicare and Medicaid payments brought the hospital's clinic within the scope of § 504, and because there were genuine issues of material fact surrounding the "otherwise qualified" inquiry.