Dominion Hospital to pay $55,000 for allegedly failing to accommodate deaf family members

September 4, 2013

Falls Church-based Dominion Hospital has agreed to pay $55,000 to two deaf parents and their adult son after the parents alleged that hospital officials failed to provide them with sign language interpreters and other accommodations while their son was being treated, authorities announced Wednesday.

The settlement — negotiated with U.S. attorneys in the Eastern District of Virginia — also requires that the hospital train staff members on the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act and adopt specific procedures to make sure deaf patients and their family members are given proper accommodations, authorities said. Dominion Hospital spokeswoman Melissa Ozmar said in a statement that although hospital officials “believe we acted appropriately and followed the law, we are pleased to have this resolved, and we will comply with the terms of the agreement.”

“Dominion Hospital has a continued commitment to providing all patients, as well as their family, friends, and companions, appropriate accommodations to deliver the highest quality of health care,” Ozmar said.

The hospital agreed to pay $25,000 to each parent and $5,000 to their son but did not admit liability, according to a copy of the settlement. The family is not named in the agreement.

The case was a part of the Justice Department’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, an effort that seeks to make sure health-care providers are following the Americans With Disabilities Act. As part of the initiative, U.S. attorney’s offices across the country have negotiated settlements or filed lawsuits in more than a dozen similar incidents, forcing health-care providers to offer sign language interpreters and other services for the hearing-impaired. They have negotiated settlements on behalf of HIV patients improperly denied treatment.

According to a copy of the settlement, the parents alleged that Dominion officials failed to provide them appropriate accommodations, such as a sign language translator, while their son was being treated at the hospital in late 2010. At one point, according to the settlement, U.S. attorneys found that a sign language interpreter did not show up at a family meeting, and hospital officials relied on the man being treated to facilitate communication with his parents.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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