Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation from discriminating against an individual on the basis of that individual's disability. A person alleging discrimination under Title III must show (1) that he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, (2) that the defendant is a private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation, (3) that the defendant took adverse action against the plaintiff that was based upon the plaintiff's disability, and (4) that the defendant failed to make reasonable modifications that would accommodate the plaintiff's disability without fundamentally altering the nature of the public accommodation.
Guy Amir, an expelled medical student, filed a case against St. Louis University (SLU), alleging that it retaliated against him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by assigning him a failing grade in a psychiatry clinic and expelling him from SLU Medical School after he filed a grievance. He also alleged that the SLU discriminated against him based upon his disability in violation of Title III of the ADA, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Missouri state law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of SLU and Amir appealed the case.
Did the appellee university retaliate against the appellant in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Furthermore, did the appellee university discriminate against the appellant based upon his disability in violation of Title III of the ADA section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Missouri state law?
Yes and no, respectively
The Court held that the student was able to establish a prima facie case of improper retaliation under the McDonnell Douglas framework, but appellee university proffered a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action: the student's academic difficulties and behavioral problems. Nevertheless, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the student, a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether appellee's asserted reason was a pretext for discrimination. In particular, the discretionary failing grade was issued by a professor angered by appellant's grievance.
As to the issue of discrimination, the Court posited that although the appellant alleged disparate treatment and cited instances where students were allowed to return to a clinic after hospitalization or where students were not dismissed after receiving a failing grade, he has failed to show that these instances involved similarly situated individuals. In addition, the Court opined that appellant has proffered no evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that his disability was the motivating factor behind SLU's adverse action, thus, the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the appellee university.