U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Tyson Foods Wins Injured Worker's ADA Discrimination Appeal

In an appeal to the Fifth Circuit, an injured former employee of Tyson Foods sought to reverse the trial judge's refusal to grant a new trial, as well as a peculiar request seemingly on behalf of the appellant's attorney involving the jury.

In short, the underlying case, Benson v. Tyson Foods, involved a claim of disability discrimination, which was undercut at trial by evidence and testimony the jury relied on to find that the plaintiff-appellant was not actually disabled. Although the plaintiff did suffer a severe injury, medical experts testified that the injury had fully healed, and the plaintiff testified that she was able to play basketball and work two jobs where she stood for most of the time.

Injured, Not Disabled

When it comes to the filing of a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a claimant must be disabled pursuant to the law's definition (or perceived to be as such). Generally, this standard is rather lenient, however, one stringent requirement is that the disability not be a temporary condition, but rather a permanent condition.

Surprisingly, at trial, the plaintiff admitted to "fictionalizing details in the initial account of her foot injury." Which the appellate court found to be additional justification for the jury to question the plaintiff's credibility and find that she was not disabled, and that the lower court's refusal to grant a new trial was also not in error.

Jury Privacy Over Attorney Education

In addition to appealing the refusal to grant a new trial, the appellant sought to reverse the lower court's denial of a post-trial motion to contact the jurors. Appellant's counsel sought permission to speak with jurors to understand why they reached their verdict, so as to "improve his trial advocacy." The appellate court found no error in the trial court's denial of that motion either.

Curiously, in a concurring opinion, one justice explained that since there would be no retrial, especially given the appellate court's refusal to overturn the lower court's decision, there could be no benefit to the appellant for her attorney to contact the jurors to improve his advocacy in that matter.

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