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Legal Lesson of the Month: You’re Not Disabled

EMS can be full of interesting and tricky legal scenarios. While you can’t have an attorney ride with you, it behooves providers to have at least some familiarity with the principles, precedents, and major issues of EMS law. To that end EMS World is pleased to offer the EMS Legal Lesson of the Month.

These cases are presented by prominent attorneys in the EMS field. This month’s comes from Larry Bennett, program chair for fire science and emergency management at the University of Cincinnati. Bennett's department publishes a monthly Fire & EMS and Safety Law newsletter; subscribe to that by e-mailing or read the latest edition here.

Case: Michael Bankhead v. Lifeguard Ambulance Service of Texas

Decided: July 2019

Verdict: U.S. District Court Judge John McBryde granted Lifeguard’s motion for summary judgment, ruling Bankhead hadn’t shown he suffered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act.


Facts: Bankhead began working for Lifeguard in May 2016 and received discipline in August and again in December for repeated absences. In January he failed to show up or call for a scheduled shift, informing his manager later in the day that he’d injured his ankle when he slipped on ice on his way to work.

Lifeguard sought medical documentation of Bankhead’s injury and told him he did not qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act since he had been employed for less than 12 months, and that his employment status was pending a decision as to whether his absences were approved. When Bankhead did not respond, Lifeguard removed him from his next scheduled shift. After reviewing medical documentation that showed only a minor injury, and coupled with his attendance problems, Lifeguard fired Bankhead. He sued, claiming violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Key quote: “In this case, plaintiff has not shown that he suffered from a disability under the ADA. In fact, he pleaded that his injury was only temporary.”  

Legal lesson: Injuries covered under the ADA must be permanent or long-term; even a broken leg does not constitute impairment under the law.


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