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8th Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Denial of MSJ on FMLA Lawsuit

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on April 17, 2012 10:02 AM

Here's a case out of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals involving the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The case deals largely with the factual scenario surrounding the FMLA and a former Department of Economic Development employee.

In 2005, plaintiff David Miller's father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In 2006, his father was diagnosed with stage IV terminal lung cancer. Miller regularly obtained leave from work to take his father to appointments. At some point, Miller stopped attending his father's appointments. Nevertheless, he missed at least 23 days of work during April and May 2007, without providing much excuse.

He was terminated, due to his unexplained absences.

When contesting his termination, he claimed that he suffered from a complete physical and mental breakdown as the result of his father's condition. When his claim was rejected, he sued under FMLA.

The trial court concluded that no reasonable jury could find that Miller's father was unable to care for his own needs, or that Miller's absences were used to provide his father with necessary care. The trial court granted summary judgment and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

This case is heavy on the facts. Miller failed to establish any evidence showing that his father was not able to take care of himself. To the contrary, there was evidence on the record showing that Miller's dad was vacationing and attending graduation ceremonies during the time that Miller was allegedly caring for him.

A doctor offered evidence that the father was weak and that it was expected that he needed care. Nevertheless, the court held, the expectation of care didn't necessarily establish that Miller had actually been giving his father the care.

Miller's claim that he suffered a mental breakdown, similarly, didn't establish a claim under FMLA.

As such, the trial court held that Miller had not raised a genuine question of fact as to whether he had actually provided his father with the care during his time off.

This opinion was affirmed by the court of appeals.

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