Translation and Interpreting Lawsuits
When you put price or turn around time over quality
A 9-year-old girl, misdiagnosed with the stomach flu, died after a doctor failed to communicate to her Vietnamese-speaking parents that the drug he prescribed for her could have dangerous side effects.
A 78-year-old stroke victim had to have her leg amputated after doctors and nurses didn’t understand her when she complained, in Russian, of pain and numbness.
And a 7-year-old boy suffered organ damage because his pediatrician mistakenly diagnosed him with strep throat, having struggled to communicate with his Spanish-speaking father and grandparents during repeated visits over several weeks.
(11/19/08) On the evening of January 22nd, 1980, eighteen year old Willie Ramirez was out with a friend when he experienced a headache. He attributed it to the smell of gasoline in his friend’s car. Willie Ramirez was taken by ambulance to a South Florida hospital in a comatose state. He became quadriplegic as a result of a misdiagnosed intracerebellar hemorrhage that continued to bleed for more than two days as he lay unconscious in the hospital. In the course of the law suit, it was asserted that Willie could have walked out of the hospital had the neurosurgeon been called in earlier. No neuro consult was ordered for two days because the Emergency Room physician and the doctor covering Willie in the ICU erroneously believed that Willie had suffered an intentional drug overdose and had treated him accordingly. The misdiagnosis was based on the physical exam which initially pointed to a drug overdose, and on complete confusion regarding the medical history. At the heart of this confusion, was the Spanish word “intoxicado” which is NOT equivalent to the English word “intoxicated.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency tasked with enforcing workplace discrimination laws, is suing a private American business for firing a group of Hispanic and Asian employees over their inability to speak English at work, claiming that the English-language requirement in a U.S. business constitutes “discrimination.”
(07/11/15) A gay man, filed a $70 million lawsuit against two Bible publishers citing their translation of the Bible which calls homosexuality a sin has not only caused him emotional distress but has violated his constitutional rights. The ex-con claims Zondervan and Thomas Nelson publishers have manipulated scripture with the use of the term “homosexuals” in certain revised editions of the Bible.
(4/14/14) A $3 million wrongful death lawsuit accuses a 9-1-1 Spanish-language interpreter of botching the translation of an address and sending an ambulance to the wrong location as a 25-year-old woman was gasping for air.
(6/2/10) The story started in January 2007, when 2-month-old Luzdeestrella Flores-Rios was checked into Memorial to undergo a surgical procedure to remove her left kidney. Her parents, “who speak and understand little to no English, were led to believe that the surgery was simple,” court documents state. “But to their horror, the day after the surgery, Luzdeestrella began to deteriorate.”
(4/3/12) Trinity Health Systems in Fort Dodge, Iowa, has agreed to pay $218,000 over an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide interpretation services for a deaf patient, according to a DOJ news release. The Justice Department’s lawsuit, which was filed along with the settlement in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, alleged that Trinity Health Systems violated the ADA by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services. This failure resulted in the patient being unable to understand medical instructions among other issues, according to the complaint. Of the settlement, $198,000 will be paid to the aggrieved patients and $20,000 will be paid as a civil penalty. Trinity has also agreed to provide training to hospital staff on the ADA and adopt specific policies and procedures to ensure that auxiliary aids and services are promptly provided to patients or companions who are deaf or hard of hearing, according to the release.
(10/15/11) In documents filed U.S. District Court in Concord, Cheshire Medical Center – Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene disputed the discrimination claim and denied liability in the case, which is the second lawsuit against the hospital alleging discrimination against a deaf patient in seven years. A Keene hospital has agreed to pay a $25,000 federal fine and put in place a program to provide interpreters to patients who are deaf or hard of hearing in a settlement of a lawsuit alleging discrimination.
(7/26/12) New Jersey doctor has agreed to pay a deaf patient $10,000 to settle her complaint that he failed to provide her a sign language interpreter. The state Civil Rights Division says Dr. David Bullek also has agreed to attend training on how best to provide a reasonable accommodation for patients with disabilities.
(08/07) Two anxious parents rushed their 13-year-old daughter, Gricelda, to a Phoenix, Arizona, area emergency room because she was suffering from severe stomach pains. They spoke only Spanish, the hospital staff spoke only English, and Gricelda, who often served as a translator for her parents, was too ill to explain her symptoms.
(8/5/13) The Justice Department received complaints by individuals who are deaf that officers for the city of Henderson did not provide them with qualified sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services when needed for effective communication. One of the complainants had been arrested and detained for two days in the Henderson detention facility, while the other was an alleged crime victim.
(11/11/10) There was also a problem involving knowledge-based behavior: the ability of the surgeon to speak the patient’s language (and the inability of the other team members to do so) allowed for a nonstandard solution (surgeon acting as interpreter) that effectively shut out other team members from full participation in the informed-consent process. Since the replacement staff members were unable to verify communication between the physician and their patient, a misunderstanding resulted, in which the nurse thought that a conversation between the patient and the surgeon represented a time-out.
(2/1/12) The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the Henry Ford Health System to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in the provision of medical services. The agreement, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), resolves a complaint filed with the Department of Justice that alleged that the Henry Ford Health System failed to provide sign language interpreters to a deaf patient at one of its in-patient psychiatric facilities and to his family members who are also deaf and need interpreters to communicate effectively with health care providers.
(08/21/15) A federal class action lawsuit alleges that thousands of parents and their children are illegally denied the opportunity to participate in the special education process due to the fact that they don’t understand or speak English. The complaint alleges that the School District of Philadelphia refuses to sufficiently interpret or provide parents with translated documents in a timely manner, preventing them from participating in meetings and making informed decisions regarding educational placements and services.
(8/27/10) Instead of ASL interpreters, UPS provided a deaf clerk with note takers and English dictionaries during staff meetings, disciplinary sessions and trainings. The Ninth Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment for UPS, remanding the matter for trial. The case now goes back to the lower court for an expensive trial or an expensive settlement.”A trier of fact could conclude that UPS refused to provide an interpreter for regular meetings that were less than two hours long because there was a two-hour minimum charge for ASL interpreter services.”
(1/28/10) Patients with hearing, vision, and speech disabilities, who receive care at University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, will be screened and provided with auxiliary aids and services as required by federal law under a Resolution Agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
(6/10/10) Seven hearing-impaired emergency room patients are suing Baptist Health Systems for allegedly failing to provide qualified sign language interpreters. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Jacksonville, claims the health care provider violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
(7/23/10) Southern New Hampshire Medical Center has agreed to set up new services for deaf and hearing-impaired patients as part of a settlement announced yesterday with a patient who complained the Nashua hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
(10/24/14) Two men who are deaf have sued Rose Medical Center, claiming the hospital failed to provide them with a method of effective communication during emergency visits, as required under federal law.
(07/23/14) A Chattanooga, TN family backed by a state disability advocacy group has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Erlanger Health System claiming the hospital did not provide the husband and wife – both deaf – with a medical interpreter during crucial health procedures and for prolonged periods while they were patients at the hospital.
(8/18/13) In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Concord, David and his lawyer place blame for the digression on the organizations “Community Bridges” and “Easter Seals of New Hampshire” that coordinate the care of David’s brother Teddy, who is blind, deaf and has a cognitive disability sustained from a bout of scarlet fever as an infant. The lawsuit gives a long-range view of Teddy’s last 15 years in assisted living homes and alleges that those organizations failed day after day to provide staff who could communicate meaningfully with him.
(07/29/13) A deaf man has filed a lawsuit against a Texas medical center for failing to provide an interpreter so that he could be informed about the medical status of his wife.
(9/28/11) J. William Fullbright, 40, of Clive was suffering an inexplicable shortness of breath when his wife rushed him to Mercy Medical Center’s emergency room on a Sunday night in 2008. He and his wife both were deaf, but the hospital did not have a sign-language interpreter available to help them communicate with doctors and nurses, Polly Fullbright said.
(12/13/11) HHS’ Office for Civil Rights and East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System, based in Tyler, Texas, have entered into a resolution agreement under which ETMC will ensure that deaf or hard-of-hearing patients will be screened and provided with sign language interpreter services when necessary.
(08/11/09) The advocacy group, Legal Services NYC, filed the lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on behalf of six clients whose primary language is other than English. Because of language barriers, the suit contends, they either lost benefits, were delayed in getting benefits, or were unable to appeal benefits determinations effectively.
(9/28/15) Rampant miscommunication in medicine due to language barriers compromises patient safety and quality of care while widening existing health disparities.
(9/10/13) If a translated legal document contains an error that leads to legal action, the translator will find himself out of work. He may not get sued, but he sure won’t get any work for a long, long time.
(2/18/14) NYPD cops routinely fail to translate the statements of abused women who don’t speak English — and mock or even arrest the accusers, a federal court suit charges.
(08/12/08) This Resolution Agreement (Agreement) is entered into by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Hawaii Department of Human Services (HDHS), as a result of a general review of the policies and procedures of the HDHS relating to language assistance services provided to persons with Limited English proficiency.
The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) must maintain, and intensify, its strong enforcement of the language access obligations of the state courts that receive DOJ funds. DOJ provides funding to state courts across the nation, subjecting those courts to the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nonetheless, nearly 13 million limited English proficient (“LEP”) individuals live in states that do not require their courts to provide interpreters to LEP individuals in most types of civil cases. Another six million live in states that undercut their commitment to provide interpreters by charging for them. And many live in states that do not ensure that the “interpreters” the states provide can speak English, speak the language to be interpreted, or know how to interpret in the specialized courtroom setting.
(6/26/98) Thirty two Connecticut hospitals will now provide sign language interpreters for patients who are deaf or hard of hearing, in an innovative agreement reached today with the Justice Department and the Connecticut Office of Protection
and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (P&A). The agreement, filed today in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Connecticut, resolves a class action lawsuit that alleged that hospitals in Connecticut were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not providing sign language interpreters.
If English is not your primary language and you have difficulty communicating effectively in English, you may need an interpreter or document translation in order to have meaningful access to programs funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires recipients of Federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to make their programs, services, and activities by eligible persons with limited English proficiency.
(4/21/06) In December 2005, the National Health Law Program updated its report Summary of State Law Requirements Addressing Language Needs in Health Care. The report provides a state-bystate listing of health laws that were enacted to protect the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) persons. Laws enacted for this specific purpose recognize the increasing need to provide greater access to our health care system for LEP persons.
A number of laws exist at the federal, state and local level to ensure that patients who are Limited English Proficient (LEP) can access health care in their own language. The purpose of this guide is to provide a synopsis of each of these laws so that advocates and patients can better understand the existing legal infrastructure related to language access in the health care setting.
Summary of Selected OCR Compliance Reviews and Complaint Investigations
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) will provide qualified sign language interpreters as required by federal law to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons using its programs and services across the state under a Settlement Agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Learning another language can be difficult and when you’re in a foreign land, talking to strangers who don’t understand your mother tongue can take you out of your comfort zone. But you try and even if you get it wrong, you try again until you get it right. However, there are some people who just continued to get it wrong and then had their mistakes printed in public places for the whole world to see.
(09/25/08) United States Attorney Tom Colantuono announced that Concord Hospital agreed to enter into a settlement agreement to resolve allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services (such as sign language interpreters) that were necessary to ensure effective communication with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. As part of the settlement, Concord Hospital, which cooperated in the investigation, has agreed to establish a program to ensure that it provides effective communication to deaf and hard-of-hearing patients in the future. The hospital also has agreed pay a total of $100,000.00, which will be divided among several complainants.
Plaintiff has been deaf since childhood. Her primary method of communication is sign language, though she is capable of reading lips. Plaintiff filed the present action alleging that Defendant hospital’s failure to provide her a certified interpreter prevented her from being able to communicate while she was an admitted patient, violating the ADA in the process. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant hospital intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon her.
Through the Barrier – Free Health Care Initiative, U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the nation partner with the Department’s Civil Rights Division to target their enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities. This initiative makes sure that people with disabilities, especially those who are deaf or have hearing loss, have access to medical information provided to them in a manner that is understandable to them. The Barrier – Free Health Care Initiative is a multi-phase plan that will also involve other key issues for people with disabilities, including ensuring physical access to medical buildings.