PHILADELPHIA – A federal lawsuit from a woman who claimed a local college was responsible for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on her and denying her due process in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), has been settled.

According to records in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, plaintiff Mary Castelluci’s case against Harcum College in Bryn Mawr was settled and therefore, dismissed without prejudice on Dec. 28. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Castellucci began her education at Harcum’s Veterinary Technology program in the fall of 2014, and notified Harcum’s administration she was a student with a disability on Aug. 28 of that year. Per her complaint, Castellucci provided Harcum with a letter from her psychiatrist, Dr. Solange Margery, “documenting her symptoms, required treatment, and indicating the impact her psychological disability would have on her academic performance.”

In the fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters, Castellucci was alternately provided certain accommodations associated with her condition, such as “short breaks,” “excused absences,” “time-and-a-half” and a “quiet area.”

On Feb. 12, 2015, Castellucci attended a meeting with staff members Julia Ingersoll, Kathy Koar, Dr. Richard Cooper, Alicia Preston and Koyuki Kip to discuss Harcum “staff concerns.” In this meeting, Castellucci says she discussed with the foregoing staff her frequent absences and difficulty remaining in the classroom for the entire class period.

On March 2, 2015, Castellucci received a letter acknowledging her anxiety problems and inviting her to explore programs at Harcum apart from the Veterinary Technology program.

The following summer, Castellucci participated in an internship at Red Bank and advised her supervisor Janet McConnell of her disability and need to take frequent breaks, which Castellucci averred she was told would not be an issue.

During a later meeting on Sept. 2, 2015, Castellucci met with Koar and other members of the Harcum staff, but none of the staff present included representatives from Harcum’s student disability services.

At the September meeting, Castellucci says received “negative feedback” about her internship at Red Bank because of her accommodations and need for breaks, and that these accommodations prohibited her from completing the Veterinary Technology program. Castellucci says she was then advised to withdraw from the program.

Castellucci claims for approximately one week after the September meeting, she suffered extreme anxiety, was unable to attend classes and ultimately withdrew from the Veterinary Technology program.

Castellucci filed a five-count complaint against Harcum College, alleging violations of Section 506 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; violation of the ADA; breach of contract; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and violation of “due process.”

Harcum moved to dismiss the final two counts for intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of “due process” and categorically denied Castellucci’s allegations.

In May, District Court Judge Michael M. Baylson approved dismissal of the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress without prejudice, and the claim for violation of due process with prejudice.

The plaintiff is represented by Joseph W. Montgomery II and Zachary A. Meinen of Montgomery Law in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Patricia Fecile-Moreland of Marks O’Neill O’Brien Doherty & Kelly, also in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:16-cv-00073

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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