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Valtierra v. Medtronic Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 20, 2019

Jose Valtierra, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Medtronic Inc., a Minnesota Company, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted June 14, 2019 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court, No. 2:15-cv-00865-SMM, for the District of Arizona Stephen M. McNamee, District Judge, Presiding

          Jessica Miller (argued) and Michael Zoldan, Zoldan Law Group PLLC, Scottsdale, Arizona, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Robert Shawn Oller (argued), Littler Mendelson P.C., Phoenix, Arizona, for Defendant-Appellee.

          Barbara L. Sloan (argued), Attorney; Sydney A.R. Foster, Assistant General Counsel; Jennifer S. Goldstein, Associate General Counsel; James L. Lee, Deputy General Counsel; Office of the General Counsel, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commision, Washington, D.C.; for Amicus Curiae Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

          Bryan P. Neal (argued) and Stephen F. Fink, Thompson & Knight LLP, Dallas, Texas, for Amicus Curiae BNSF Railway Company.

          Before: Mary M. Schroeder and Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judges, and Jed S. Rakoff, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Employment Discrimination

         The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in an employment discrimination action under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

         Plaintiff claimed he was terminated from his employment on account of his morbid obesity, which the district court held was not a physical impairment and could not constitute a disability unless it was caused by an underlying physiological condition. Therefore, plaintiff could not establish disability discrimination.

         The panel affirmed on other grounds, holding that, even if plaintiff's obesity were an impairment under the ADA, or he suffered from a disabling knee condition that the district court could have considered, he could not show a causal relationship between these impairments and his termination.

          OPINION

          SCHROEDER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jose Valtierra appeals the district court's judgment in favor of his former employer, Medtronic Inc., in his action under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Valtierra claimed that he was terminated on account of his morbid obesity, which the district court held was not a physical impairment under the relevant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") regulations and interpretative guidance. He contends on appeal that the district court misinterpreted that guidance. Medtronic, in addition to defending the district court's interpretation of the EEOC guidance, defends the grant of summary judgment on the additional ground that the reason ...


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