Friday, November 14, 2008

Jersey Journal report: Jury awards $400,000 to deaf patient for denial of an interpreter
Hudson County, New Jersey - A rheumatologist who declined to provide an American Sign Language interpreter for a deaf lupus patient because it would cost him too much money has been ordered to pay her $4000,000 in damages, according to this report in The Jersey Journal. Here is an excerpt:
A Hudson County jury's $400,000 verdict for a deaf patient whose doctor refused her an interpreter may be a wake-up call for all professionals -- including lawyers -- that they risk liability for disability discrimination.

Worse, malpractice liability insurance does not usually cover such liability, says plaintiff's attorney Clara Smit.

Smit's client, Irma Gerena, claimed she repeatedly asked Jersey City rheumatologist Robert Fogari to hire an American Sign Language interpreter. Fogari said that as a solo practitioner, he couldn't afford the estimated $150 to $200 per visit an interpreter would cost.
Fogari treated Gerena for lupus for about 20 visits, stretched out over 20 months. He would sometimes exchange written words with her civil union partner, Lourdes Torres, who had better written English skills, and he also communicated with Gerena through the couple's 9-year-old daughter.
But Gerena claimed that for the most part, she was deprived of the opportunity to participate in and understand her medical situation and the treatment Fogari provided, including the attendant risks and alternative approaches. She kept seeing Fogari because her primary care physician had referred her to him; she was not sure of the nature of her illness and fearful about her worsening symptoms; and she could not just pick up the phone and find another doctor.

Gerena allegedly tried to get Fogari to change his mind, giving him an interpreter's business card and having the interpreter call him to explain the law to him, all to no avail. She switched doctors after Fogari told her to go to someone else because of her repeated requests, says Smit, an East Brunswick solo.
h/t to JFA