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Ortiz-Martínez v. Fresenius Health Partners, PR, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 7, 2017

GLORIA M. ORTIZ-MARTÍNEZ, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
FRESENIUS HEALTH PARTNERS, PR, LLC; FRESENIUS MEDICAL CARE EXTRACORPOREAL ALLIANCE OF PUERTO RICO, INC., Defendants, Appellees.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Bruce J. McGiverin, U.S. Magistrate Judge]

          Isis Aimée Roldán Márquez for appellant.

          Alfredo M. Hopgood-Jovet, Patricia M. Marvez-Valiente, and McConnell Valdés LLC for appellees.

          Before Torruella, Lipez, and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

          THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.

         Appellant Gloria Ortiz-Martínez worked as a social worker for appellees Fresenius Health Partners, PR, LLC and Fresenius Medical Care Extracorporeal Alliance of Puerto Rico, Inc. (together, "Fresenius").[1] After suffering a work-related injury, Ortiz-Martínez sued Fresenius for failing to accommodate her disability in violation of the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213. The district court granted summary judgment finding, first, that Ortiz-Martínez did not qualify as a "disabled" individual under the ADA and, second, that she was the cause of the breakdown in communications concerning her accommodations. After careful consideration, we affirm the district court's ruling.

         Background

         The case facts are largely undisputed and we summarize them in the light most favorable to the appellant. See Gillen v. Fallon Ambulance Serv., 283 F.3d 11, 17 (1st Cir. 2002).

         On January 25, 2010, Ortiz-Martínez was hired as a social worker at Fresenius, a health care services provider that administers dialysis treatment to patients with kidney disease or impaired renal function. As part of her duties, Ortiz-Martínez was required to regularly write and document various aspects of her work, including documenting all interventions and services she rendered to patients, and completing a monthly report for each patient under her care. During the course of her employment, Ortiz-Martínez suffered a hand injury while preparing written notes in her patients' files.

         Ortiz-Martínez subsequently went to see a doctor with the State Insurance Fund ("SIF") on July 30, 2012 regarding her work-related injury and was placed on rest until August 9, 2012. Ortiz-Martínez went back to the SIF for several follow-up appointments over the course of the next year, and each time she was placed on additional rest and not permitted to return to work. Following a doctor's appointment on July 12, 2013 where the doctor once again extended Ortiz-Martínez's order of rest until July 22, 2013, Ortiz-Martínez returned to the SIF five days later (on July 17, 2013) to inquire about returning to work while she continued treatment for her injury. Her doctors agreed that she could return to work while continuing her treatments and, with the blessing of her doctors, she reported in on July 18, 2013.

         Upon her return, Ortiz-Martínez provided her supervisor and Clinical Manager, Priscilla Ortiz ("Priscilla"), [2] with a copy of the SIF form which indicated that Ortiz-Martínez had been diagnosed with a sprained left shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand, as well as bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. The SIF form also indicated that after her medical examination on July 17, 2013, Ortiz-Martínez was cleared to return to work while she continued to receive medical treatment for her injuries. The SIF form did not indicate what specific accommodations were necessary to assist Ortiz-Martínez in the completion of her daily tasks while continuing treatments for her injury.

         Accordingly, Priscilla informed Ortiz-Martínez that without more information regarding Ortiz-Martínez's medical restrictions and what specific accommodations she was requesting, Fresenius would not be able to reinstate her. That same day (July 18, 2013), Ortiz-Martínez returned to the SIF in an effort to obtain the additional information requested by Priscilla. The SIF provided Ortiz-Martínez with a letter that, in pertinent part, stated the following:

The following diagnosis was made at our agency: Sprained Left Shoulder and Arm. Sprained Left Forearm. Sprained Left Hand, Bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. These conditions produce constant pain, numbness in [Ortiz-Martínez's] upper extremities, and difficulty in performing the activities that require exercising force or pressure in the affect [sic] area.
Dr. Miguel Rivera-González, Occupational Physician who is in charge of the case, recommends that this employee be provided with an occupational adjustment. The medical evidence shows that Mrs. Ortiz[-Martínez] has difficulty in performing repetitive tasks, lifting, holding and manipulating heavy and large objects for a prolonged length of time. She also has difficulty in holding, pulling, gripping and she shows problems related to restriction of movement and ...

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