Cox College filed a motion for summary judgment, and the circuit court judge ruled in the school’s favor, basically tossing out the case. Wells appealed in the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals. “The college had to prove that Jessica wasn’t able to do the job with the appropriate accommodations,” says Sanders. “They didn’t show that.” She also argued that the college had not provided any evidence that Wells’s accommodations were a “direct threat” to patients. In fact, the appeals court found that Cox had actually proved the opposite to be true: “Her successful completion of the first semester while using an ASL interpreter during her clinical rotations proved the absence of any such threat.” The appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling, then sent the case back to the circuit court for trial.
In August 2013, after five days in court, the jury ruled in favor of Wells and awarded her $50,000 for a violation of the ADA. In a statement to the press, the president of Cox College, Lance Ratcliff, explained that “if, in Cox College’s reasonable judgment, the physical standards cannot be met with or without a reasonable accommodation, patient safety can be seriously compromised … [P]atient safety is always our number one priority.” Wells is currently enrolled at Missouri State University and is still considering a degree in nursing.
Agree? Disagree? Sound off at rd.com/judge.