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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; AD discrimination claim against health providers survives summary judgment.

July 1, 2017
Silva v. Baptist Health South Florida, No. 16-10094, ___ F.3d ___, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8151 (11th Cir. May 8, 2017)

The two plaintiffs, hearing-impaired individuals who treated at the defendants’ hospitals, alleged a violation of the ADA because the hospitals lacked auxiliary aids to ensure effective communication. The District Court entered summary judgment for the defendants because the record showed no evidence of a specific instance where hampered communication resulted in adverse consequences for medical care. Also, the plaintiffs failed to specify a specific matter that they did not comprehend. In addition, the District Court noted that the plaintiffs did not allege they would return to the hospitals in the future and, therefore, lacked standing to obtain prospective injunctive relief. The Eleventh Circuit reversed on all grounds, noting that the ADA requires aids for the hearing impaired. Their absence was a violation of the statute and, thus, deemed discrimination against the plaintiffs. The court held that the plaintiffs did have standing and also that, for an effective-communication claim, “We do not require a plaintiff to show actual deficient treatment or to recount exactly what the plaintiff did not understand. Nor is it a sufficient defense for a defendant merely to show that a plaintiff could participate in the most basic elements of a doctor-patient exchange. Rather, the relevant inquiry is whether the hospitals’ failure to offer an appropriate auxiliary aid impaired the patient’s ability to exchange medically relevant information with hospital staff.”


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2017

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