Federal Court Ruling Provides Greater Access to Justice for Mentally Disabled
Mentally disabled individuals and their advocates were handed a major victory recently when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that mentally disabled individuals are entitled to reasonable accommodations in meeting filing deadlines imposed by state law.
The case before the court, Mary Jo C. v. New York State and Local Retirement System, 2013 WL 322879 (2d Cir. Jan. 29, 2013), was brought by a mentally disabled woman seeking disability retirement benefits under New York state law. Because she had failed to apply for the benefits by the filing deadline, the trial court denied the woman’s benefits. The woman appealed the decision, arguing that she missed the filing deadline due to her mental disability and that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) entitled her to a reasonable accommodation in meeting the deadline. The Court of Appeals agreed, finding that filing deadlines imposed by state law are not insulated from the reasonable accommodation requirements of the ADA.
This decision represents a significant extension of the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirements for mentally disabled individuals.