Student’s Disability Discrimination Claim Stemming from Injury Dismissed

A ninth-grade Pflugerville ISD student fell in PE class and broke his arm. The school called the student’s mother, who took her son to a medical clinic.  The suit alleged that the student broke his arm in two places and that he had surgery for a dislocated and broken hip.

The mother sued the school district, in part, for failing to call emergency services, claiming a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The trial court dismissed the suit and the parent appealed.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. It observed that a plaintiff seeking compensatory damages must show intentional discrimination to prevail on an ADA claim, as negligence is insufficient.

The issue in this case was whether the school nurse’s decision to call the student’s mother rather than an ambulance amounted to intentional discrimination on the basis of a disability. The district court concluded that the facts of this case presented, at most, a potential negligent medical decision. The Fifth Circuit agreed, stating the ADA does not provide a remedy for medical negligence. The appeals court affirmed dismissal of the parent’s suit.

The case is Chupka v. Pflugerville ISD, No. 21-50356 (April 8, 2022).

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