MIAMI — A federal court has reversed a decision to grant a motion for summary judgment to Lifemark Hospitals Inc., after a deaf man claimed he was denied full access to an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter during a psychiatric evaluation.
In the initial complaint, plaintiff Harold Crane, who is deaf, alleged that defendants Lifemark Hospitals Inc., the parent company to Lifemark Hospitals of Florida Inc., did not provide him reasonable accommodations during his involuntary commitment at Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah.
If the allegations are true, Lifemark would be in violation of the Rehabilitation Act (RA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Lifemark argued that it did not violate the acts, and though the courts initially sided with the healthcare company, the appeals court ruled that Crane provided sufficient arguments against the initial ruling.
Crane, who suffers from depressive and anxiety disorders, was forcibly admitted to Palmetto on July 17, 2011, when the Miami-Dade Police Department responded to calls that he was suicidal.
While undergoing a Baker Act examination for three days, Crane was under the care of Dr. Marjorie Caro, who had only a basic understanding of sign language, but she was able to communicate with him through writing, according to court documents.
It was through writing that Caro had to determine whether Crane was a danger to himself or others under the Baker Act, which she concluded he was not, according to court documents.
Though Crane was provided an ASL interpreter on his last day, he contends the interpreter only told him he was being discharged, leaving him to believe he was not given the opportunity to effectively communicate.
“I was never able to thoroughly express my feelings [about] the traumas I have experienced in my life during any of the doctor’s evaluations and daily interactions with the hospital’s nurse,” Crane declared in an affidavit. “I was never provided the opportunity during my hospitalization to go into detail with the hospital’s staff about why I was depressed.”
During the initial hearing, the court believed Caro’s notes provided sufficient evidence that Crane was provided effective communication and Lifemark did not present any “deliberate indifference to his federally protected rights.”
After Crane filed an appeal, U.S. Court of Appeals Judges Ed Carnes and Stanley Marcus of the Eleventh Circuit and U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross of the Northern District of Georgia now see Dr. Caro’s notes as helping his case.
“At a bare minimum, this provides evidence that Crane could not understand and suffered a real hindrance due to his disability to provide material medical information with his healthcare provider,” Carnes, Marcus and Ross said in their decision.
Though the court did not determine whether or not Lifemark was in violation of the RA or ADA, it was decided that further proceedings would be necessary to come to a conclusion.