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Maryland high court: allergy is disability requiring accommodation

Employees at the private Children's Manor Montessori School use latex gloves to change diapers. This dissatisfied Lisa Meade, who suffers from a latex allergy that she thought would prevent her from visiting a room where the latex gloves had been used. (In fact, she never even had an allergic reaction that so much as required her to use her inhaler at the school.) The school agreed to use different gloves to change her son's diaper, and to let Meade pick up her son without visiting the main classroom, but Meade wanted the school to change its glove supplier and buy more expensive gloves. The school kicked her son out because of the dispute, and Meade sued under local disability laws. She won a judgment of about $30 thousand (most of which was attorneys' fees) from a jury; an intermediate court reversed in 2008, and, last week, in a 4-3 decision, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reinstated the decision on the theory that "remedial statutes" deserve "liberal interpretation," and the allergy constituted a "handicap," notwithstanding federal precedent to the contrary. In other words, once a legislature acts, a court may expand the rights created. Judge Easterbrook has correctly criticized that approach. As the dissent notes, if the decision is taken literally, a person with perfume allergies can bar a department store from giving out samples. And one wonders what accommodations a person with a fear of flying could require. [Meade v. Shangri-La Partnership (Md. 2012); Legal Newsline]

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.