Nursing Student Sues Over Failed Test, Claims Stress As A Disability

Misericordia University nursing student Jennifer Burbella is suing over a failed test. Burbella’s lawsuit claims that officials at the Dallas, Pennsylvania, university violated federal disability laws after she failed the test not once, but twice.

Jennifer Burbella claims that her existing anxiety and depression increased due the rigors associated with earning a nursing degree, the Misericordia University lawsuit claims. The nursing student’s attorney filed the federal lawsuit filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The filing also maintains that Burbella sought treatment from the Misericordia University psychological service center in 2011. The nursing student’s lawsuit also stated that in addition to the stress felt while preparing for the final exam, she was left “breaking down and crying” because she could not get her professor on the phone to discuss her disability accommodations request.

sues over failed tests
Jennifer Burbella

Jennifer Burbella claims that Misericordia University offered her a “distraction-free environment,” an extended deadline to finish the final exam, and the ability to ask the professor questions during her second attempt to take the test.

The Jennifer Burbella lawsuit claims that none of the special accommodations promised were delivered. The now-viral story about the nursing student suing over a failed test has prompted many online comments about the woman’s capabilities to actually function as nurse and handle life and death situations if she ever passes the test.

Burbella was reportedly “so close” to garnering a nursing degree that she was listed as a graduate on the Misericordia University website. The Pennsylvania nursing student’s lawsuit names Misericordia University President Thomas J. Botzman, nursing department chairwoman Cynthia Mailloux, and nursing professor Christina Tomkins in the federal complaint.

Jennifer Burbella’s attorney, Harry McGrath, believes his client deserves a “fair shot” at the nursing final exam.


“She has some disabilities and under section 504 of The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973, you can make certain accommodations, not only in educational setting, but in the workplace, et cetera. I think many people suffer from anxiety, depression, and those types of things who are doctors, lawyers, nurses. She’s not looking for the university to ordain that she get this degree, she’s looking for a fair opportunity, which the statute provides, to take the exam. If she fails it that’s her own problem and she has to deal with it.”

What type of workplace accommodations Burbella would require to work in an office or hospital setting as a nurse remains unclear.

Jennifer Burbella reportedly no longer attends Misericordia University. She is seeking $75,000 in damages in the federal lawsuit against the Pennsylvania college.

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