Stembridge Taylor Recovers Seven-Figure Award on Behalf of Disabled Special-Education Teacher Crystal Lamb Following Six-Year Legal Battle Against Clayton County School District
Stembridge Taylor achieved a momentous victory earlier this month, recovering $1,096,435.42 from the Clayton County (GA) School District for client Crystal Lamb, a remarkable woman who overcame challenges stemming from a mid-career diagnosis of myotonia disorder, a form of muscular dystrophy, to remain a highly-recognized special education teacher. Ms. Lamb, who served the District’s most severely challenged children in a GNETS classroom, sustained a minor injury to her ankle when she tripped and fell in the classroom in October 2017. When she could not present a 100%-healed release to return to work, Clayton County refused to allow her back to her classroom, even though the accommodations she requested did not change anything about how she performed her job prior to the injury. Instead of accommodating Ms. Lamb’s disability, the school district placed her on unpaid leave for five months and then terminated her employment.
John Stembridge, as lead counsel for the Stembridge Taylor team, filed a federal lawsuit on Ms. Lamb’s behalf in 2019, asserting claims of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). After all efforts to resolve Ms. Lamb’s claims failed, the firm, along with co-counsel Holly Pierson of Pierson Law LLC, tried Ms. Lamb’s case to a jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Following a four-day trial in June 2021, the jury found in Ms. Lamb’s favor on all of her claims, awarding Ms. Lamb damages that exceeded the maximum-recovery caps of the ADA.
The school district subsequently launched a series of baseless appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. After fully briefing the case, Lisa Taylor presented oral argument to a three-judge panel on April 20, 2023, explaining that one of Clayton County’s appeals was untimely so that the court lacked jurisdiction to decide it and that the other rested on contentions that were flatly contradicted by longstanding principles of appellate and procedural law.
Less than a week later, the Eleventh Circuit issued its opinion, affirming the District Court’s judgment in Ms. Lamb’s favor and finally putting an end to the School District’s relentless attempts to resist compensating Ms. Lamb for the discrimination and retaliation that it committed.
Stembridge Taylor extends its heartfelt gratitude to Ms. Lamb for placing her trust in us and we are honored to have attained this excellent result for her. This case serves as an example of how employers can avoid significant expenses by seeking the advice of counsel when making decisions about employee accommodation requests and, where mistakes are made, working to resolve claims early to avoid the fees and costs of litigation.
A copy of the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion can be accessed here.