Sulima v. Tobyhanna Army Depot, 2010 WL 1427542 (3d Cir., April 12, 2010) – In this case, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that the side effects of medication taken to treat a condition could by themselves constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), even when the underlying condition is not itself disabling.  

The plaintiff claimed that the side effects of his obesity and sleep apnea medications constituted a disability because they required him to use the restroom frequently. The Third Circuit adopted the factors set forth in the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Christian v. St. Anthony Med. Ctr., 117 F.3d 1051 (7th Cir., 1997) to decide the question: (1) whether the treatment is medically necessary in the prudent judgment of the medical profession; (2) whether the treatment is not just an “attractive option” and that there is no available, equally effective alternative that lacks the side effects in question; and (3) whether the treatment is not required solely in anticipation of an impairment resulting from the plaintiff’s voluntary choices.  

In this case, the court found that the side effects of the plaintiff’s medications did not constitute a disabling impairment because he did not establish that they were medically necessary. It nevertheless made clear that in the appropriate case the result could be different.