December 29, 2010

Deaf Patient Denied Interpreter at Hospital

Once again, a public establishment refused to provide an interpreter for a deaf individual. This time it is a Florida hospital. In response, this deaf patient filed a complaint against this hospital. Now they are trying to see if this hospital meets the "legal definition of a public establishment."


How is a hospital not a public establishment? 

According to the Florida Civil Rights, discrimination is prohibited in "places determined to be public accommodations." Unfortunately, hospitals do not count as public accommodations under this civil rights act.

How about focusing on the rights of a human being? No one is talking about the fact that a human being was denied a right to communicate in his or her natural language.

I wonder of this hospital, in the past, denied Spanish translators to patients who speak primarily Spanish? If not, why would they deny a sign language interpreter for a deaf patient? Are they really that expensive and an inconvenience to society?

I can't imagine going to a hospital for some medical need and not fully understanding what everyone is saying and what is happening. Written communication isn't going to help the patient to be able to communicate effectively, in my opinion. At least through a sign language interpreter, you would get the information instantly and with ease.

I am confused about why there always seems to be a dilemma in hiring and using sign language interpreters in public establishments. I can understand why a private practice struggling to make money would deny interpreting services, but a hospital? 

As always, there are stupid and mean comments left in response to this article. Ugh, some people just don't understand.

Link to article:



  1. DOJ has a list of successful cases resolved where hospitals are required to provide interpreters, or maybe I'm thinking of municipal and circuit courts. I thought that some hospitals which are private/do not get federal funds tend to fall into legal definition where they're not required to provide interpreters. Most hospitals are required to provide interpreters, they are also required to treat those without insurance (they are a public entity.) I dunno...will have to look into it a bit more.


  2. Oh, Florida Civil Rights Act?? ahh. This lady should have filed complaint with DOJ.


  3. It's always completely nuts when I read these stories. They are going to lose and have to make accommodations, retrain some people and hire a staff interpreter. There may even be a settlement with no admission of guilt. I read the same story last month, but in a different state.

  4. Hospitals do not count as public accommodations under this civil rights act.
    Hialeah's Palmetto General Hospital should be as public accommodation.
    I thought that the American with Disabilities Act applied everywhere.
    Now what?

  5. I agree with Candy, she should have filed the complaint with DOJ.

    Gotta love these 'loop holes' where people are able to get away with not providing certain accommodations, even though it states clearly in ADA that it should apply to every 'public institution' (or does it?). I don't understand why under the Florida Civil Rights act, hospitals are not listed as public establishments.


  6. If the hospital can't "afford" hiring interpreters, why couldn't they bill that to the medical insurance? Some doctors and hospitals are already doing this.

  7. The ADA supersedes the state civil rights laws. I don't understand why the lawyer hasn't filed the complaint with DOJ.

    Unfortunately there was no description in the article what happened with the deaf patient. The public reaction may be different if there was one included in the article.


  8. Firstly, while I am an attorney (albeit not practicing law) who also lives in South Florida, I have never met Matthew Dietz, the attorney who was quoted in the article. So, I can't ascertain his motives in litigating the case for his Deaf plaintiff as referenced in the article.

    Yes, the attorney could have sued the hospital under the ADA and not the state statute. However, it may be more difficult to recover attorney fees and costs under the ADA as opposed to using the state statute.

    There's nothing wrong with that. The attorney needs to make a living, and the Deaf plaintiff needs access to medical services. The real issue at stake here is access to legal services for Deaf/HH people in enforcing violations of various federal and state statutes governing accessibility.

    Oh- This comment wasn't intended for legal advice; it is offered for informational and entertainment purposes only. Hopefully the Deaf plaintiff will the access she truly needs at the hospital.

  9. Just reread the article; Matthew Dietz didn't provide a quote. The article did reference him as the plaintiff's lawyer.

  10. Sheesh.....
    I left my comment at other blog that has the same article as yours.
    Not right here in Connecticut because they are REQUIRED to provide the interpreters NO MATTER WHAT. If they refused to provide or neglect to call for one, they'll be slapped with $25,000 fine, I believe.

  11. I just love it (am being sarcastic here, okay.) when lawyers (practicing or not) say things like:

    "Yes, the attorney could have sued the hospital under the ADA and not the state statute. However, it may be more difficult to recover attorney fees and costs under the ADA as opposed to using the state statute."

    and then say things like:

    "There's nothing wrong with that. The attorney needs to make a living, and the Deaf plaintiff needs access to medical services. "

    Ya know what? THERE IS EVERYTHING WRONG WITH THAT! The plaintiff doesn't have to pay ONE cent by filing a complaint with DOJ and probably will get better results. I wonder, did the lawyer contact the plaintiff? Does the lawyer really care about the plaintiff? Or does he care more about getting $$$????

    Me thinks this plaintiff need to dump this lawyer and file a complaint with DOJ.

    I think that people would react better had they known that the plaintiff only wants to rectify the situation without getting any money. Now we have taxpayers of south Florida upset that this deaf lady is out to sue for $$

    Can't say I blame these taxpayers.

    I hope the plaintiff sees this article and realizes that she is better off dumping that scum ass lawyer and file a complaint with DOJ (ADA).


  12. Anonymous @ #11-

    The vitrol towards lawyers as a whole is understandable. I, however, will sidestep this issue.

    Secondly, filing a complaint with the DOJ is no guarantee, either, that the Deaf/HH person will get the access needed at a hospital or doctor's office.

    Moreover, there could be a huge backlog of cases pending at the DOJ, and some 'prioritization' could take effect, relegating such cases to the bottom of an ever-expanding attorney's inbox. Prevailing political winds (Repubs or Dems) could shape DOJ's disability enforcement actions accordingly. Or, it could take years before the DOJ finally comes around in resolving the issue.

    I don't work for the DOJ and have never worked there in the past. All I know is that a Deaf/HH person has several options in redressing discrimination occurring at medical settings, and filing a complaint with the DOJ is just one such avenue.

    Another avenue is to hire an attorney, or do it yourself. (I don't know if the Federal Courts will allow pro se ADA filings, but let's assume they do...) In this case, a Deaf/HH person receives the immediate attention of a professional that will work towards remedying the discrimination incurred in a medical setting, using the ADA, 504, state law, and/or a combination of such laws.

    There are other avenues in how a Deaf/HH person could resolve his/her grievances on the state level, but I don't know too much about them.

    The issue, I feel, is that utilizing an attorney is the quickest and effective way in resolving discriminatory actions in medical settings involving Deaf/HH people. I fear, we may be losing access to this important service as a whole. (Apart from paying an attorney out of your pocket.)

  13. I found something interesting links from David Samuelsen who posted the links on other blogger's website.
    Thank you , David
    Palmetto Hospital have reputation with several lawsuits. Two example below

    Lifemark Hospitals of Florida, Inc is the owner

  14. What do you mean DOJ has no guarantees? This isn't true. DOJ has a long standing positive record in getting the hospitals to follow ADA with interpreters and VRI. Unlike FL which has weak civil rights, ADA is stronger and with DOJ, pretty solid regarding the rights of Deaf patients and their families.

    If the patient isn't interested in getting money, then she is better off using ADA. This state case is solely for the benefit of the lawyer, not for the deaf patient. I would recommend that she contact DOJ. This is terrible : /


  15. Anonymous (MishkaZena)-

    Smile. Yes, I'll grant that the DOJ has a good track record regarding ADA enforcement for interpreters in medical settings.

    Admittedly, my 'distaste' in filing a complaint with the DOJ stems from my own experience. On behalf of a Deaf/HH consumer, I filed a complaint with DOJ in 1996. I never heard back from DOJ, but I assume the gears of justice grind slowly in the public institutions out there... Granted, from what I recall, the complaint didn't involve a medical setting.

    Fast forward to last summer, and I chatted with Marc. (I think he still works part-time at the NAD Law Center.) He told me that the DOJ finally 'resolved' the complaint ten years later! I was surprised.

    Next, this is a medical setting. The Deaf/HH patient needs an interpreter. He/she can't wait that long for a DOJ lawyer to resolve the interpreter situation. Private lawyer action usually can do the job quickly and effectively.

    Just curious; does anyone know the 'turnaround' time for DOJ in responding to interpreter inquiries in medical settings? If it's quick and forceful, then obviously it would be a preferable avenue to use rather than a private lawyer.

    Lastly, it shouldn't have happened in the first place. The hospital should have provided an interpreter. They have had 20 years worth of ADA knowledge to know otherwise.


Keep it civil.