A trial court has rebuffed the government’s attempts to set aside a jury verdict in favor of an unsuccessful applicant for an FBI Special Agent position. (Kapche v. Holder, D.D.C. Civil Action No. 07-2093) Here are the facts as gleaned from the court’s opinion.
The FBI revoked its conditional offer of employment to Kapche who is a Type I insulin-dependent diabetic because it concluded the he was not enough in control of his diabetes to be able to take on certain of the position’s responsibilities. Kapche invoked the Rehabilitation Act and sued the agency.
After a full trial, a jury found in Kapche’s favor and awarded him $100,000 in damages earlier in 2009. In an effort to salvage the case, the Department of Justice has moved that the court set aside the verdict and enter judgment for the agency as a matter of law, or order up a new trial. The court’s just-issued decision has denied that government motion, and, unless the government successfully appeals this ruling, Kapche will get his $100,000 jury award. (Opinion p. 1)
As the court explains, to find a Rehabilitation Act violation the jury had to reach three essential conclusions in order to rule in Kapche’s favor—he was disabled, he was qualified to do the essential functions of the job, and an adverse employment action was taken against him because of his disability. (p. 2)
The government, obviously not happy with the jury’s findings and award of damages, tried to convince the judge that there was simply not enough evidence to support the jury’s conclusion that Kapche was disabled. The government argued that just having to take insulin does not add up to being disabled without evidence of "difficulty or complications." (p. 4) In brushing aside this argument, the judge notes that Kapche’s Type 1 diabetes routine—requiring him to test his blood sugar often throughout the day, closely monitor what and how much he eats, constantly adjust his food intake and insulin levels–"substantially" impacted "major life activities of eating and caring for himself when compared to an average person in the general population." (p. 4)
Although the government had argued to the jury that Kapche’s regimen was "simply a hassle," and tantamount to being on a diet, the jury found that his limitations were much more than that. In denying the government’s motions, the judge calls this "a reasonable conclusion given the evidence before them." (p. 5)
The judge’s denial of the government’s motions means the verdict stands. It remains to be seen whether the government will go for an appeal or throw in the towel and pony up the $100,000.