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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Tennessee

Monday, May 16, 2016

Methodist University Hospital Agrees to Settle Allegations that it Violated the Americans with Disabilitiees Act

Memphis, TN –Methodist University Hospital, in order to resolve allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, has agreed to improve its procedures regarding effective communication to people who are deaf or have hearing disabilities. Edward L. Stanton III, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced the settlement today.

"Protecting citizens by ensuring full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act remains a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office," said U.S. Attorney Stanton. "We appreciate the cooperation of Methodist Healthcare in quickly resolving this matter and recognizing the importance of communicating effectively with its hearing impaired patients."

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses serving the public to provide the means for effective communication with hearing impaired persons. Depending on the length and complexity of the communication, providing the means for effective communication can range from exchanging written notes to using a sign language interpreter.

The United States’ investigation revealed that a hearing impaired person presented herself to the emergency room (ER) and initially wrote notes to explain why she was there. However, emergency room personnel did not follow through by initiating a request for an interpreter and actually thought the patient had left the ER when she did not respond to her name being called. Even after this mistake was discovered, an interpreter never arrived at the hospital to assist the patient. In all, the patient spent nine hours in the Methodist University ER.

Under the Settlement Agreement with Methodist Healthcare, the hospital will improve its procedures for identifying and tracking the needs of hearing impaired patients and its procedures for using interpreters. Methodist will also pay damages to the person who filed the complaint in the amount of $8,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary A. Vanasek investigated the complaint and negotiated the Settlement Agreement.

Updated May 16, 2016