Cleveland v. Policy Mgmt. Sys. Corp – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Cleveland v. Policy Mgmt. Sys. Corp., 526 U.S. 795, 119 S. Ct. 1597, 143 L. Ed. 2d 966 (1999), the Supreme Court of the United States considered the contention that the plaintiff's statements of disability in her application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits judicially estopped her from bringing a claim under the ADA in which she stated she could perform the functions of her job.

Analyzing the Social Security Act, the ADA and the purposes served by those acts, the Court concluded that the two claims of plaintiff, though seemingly divergent, did not inherently conflict to the point where the doctrine of judicial estoppel automatically barred the ADA claim or to where the courts should apply a special negative presumption to the claim. Id. at 802, 119 S. Ct. at 1601-02, 143 L. Ed. 2d at 974.

For example, whereas the Social Security Act did not take into account the possibility of reasonable accommodation, the ADA did.

Also, a person might qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Act's administrative rules and yet remain capable of performing the essential functions of her job. Id. at 803-04, 119 S. Ct. at 1602-03, 143 L. Ed. 2d at 975-76.

Or, the nature of the disability might change so that a statement made when the disability benefits were applied for might not reflect an individual's ability at the time of the relevant employment decision. Id. at 805, 119 S. Ct. at 1603, 143 L. Ed. 2d at 976.