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Crane v. Lifemark Hospitals, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

August 2, 2018

HAROLD CRANE, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
LIFEMARK HOSPITALS, INC., LIFEMARK HOSPITALS OF FLORIDA, INC., d.b.a. PALMETTO GENERAL HOSPITAL, Defendants - Appellees.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 1:15-cv-21960-MGC

          Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, MARCUS, Circuit Judge, and ROSS, [*] District Judge.

          ROSS, District Judge:

         Plaintiff Harold Crane, who is deaf, brought this action against Defendants Lifemark Hospitals of Florida, Inc., d/b/a Palmetto General Hospital ("PGH"), and its parent organization, Lifemark Hospitals, Inc., for their alleged failure to provide an American Sign Language ("ASL") interpreter for Crane to effectively communicate during an involuntary commitment evaluation. Specifically, Crane alleges the defendants violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (the "RA") and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12181, et seq. (the "ADA"). The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         At issue in this appeal is whether Crane was afforded an equal opportunity, through an appropriate auxiliary aid, to effectively communicate medically relevant information during his involuntary commitment evaluation. After a thorough de novo review, and viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Crane as the non-moving party, we reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Specifically, genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether Crane was able to effectively communicate medically relevant information and whether the hospital personnel were deliberately indifferent.

         BACKGROUND

         Crane is profoundly deaf and suffers from chronic depressive and anxiety disorders. On July 17, 2011, the Miami-Dade Police Department responded to a call that Crane was suicidal and transported Crane to PGH for an involuntary commitment examination pursuant to the Baker Act, Fla. Stat. § 394.451, et seq.[1]During a Baker Act evaluation, a health care provider merely determines whether the patient is a danger to himself or others and does not engage in complex mental health treatment or diagnosis.

         Upon arrival at PGH, Crane was treated for alcohol related issues, including suspected consumption of rubbing alcohol. The next day, July 18, 2011, Crane was admitted to the hospital for medical reasons stemming from his alcohol intoxication. Dr. Marjorie Caro evaluated Crane on July 18, 2011, pursuant to the Baker Act, and she determined Crane was not a threat to himself or others. During this Baker Act evaluation, Dr. Caro communicated with Crane through written notes and through her basic sign language skills.[2] On July 19, 2011, Crane remained in the hospital.

         On July 20, 2011, an ASL interpreter was present for the first time during Crane's hospital stay to assist Dr. Caro in communicating with Crane. Dr. Caro discharged Crane from PGH later that day.[3] Crane contends he repeatedly asked for a sign language interpreter throughout his entire hospital stay.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Crane filed this lawsuit against the defendants seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief pursuant to the RA and injunctive relief pursuant to the ADA. Specifically, Crane alleged that defendants violated the RA and ADA when they did not provide him with an ASL interpreter during his hospital stay, and thus, failed to ensure effective communication. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in the district court, arguing they did not violate the RA or ADA because they provided Crane with sufficient auxiliary aids for effective communication.

         The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, finding, inter alia, (1) there was no genuine issue of material fact that the defendants' use of written notes and basic sign language interpretation was ineffective communication, and (2) there was no genuine issue of material fact that the hospital personnel were deliberately indifferent.

         Crane timely appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment, arguing the district court incorrectly determined there was no genuine issue of material fact as to effective communication and deliberate indifference.

         STANDARD ...


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