United Spinal Association et al. v. Beth Israel Medical Center

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In July 2013, DRA filed a federal class action lawsuit alleging that Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary discriminate against patients with disabilities. The lawsuit, brought by United Spinal Association, Inc. and five disabled individuals, challenges pervasive architectural barriers, ineffective policies and procedures, and inaccessible medical equipment which lead to substandard healthcare that jeopardizes patients’ health.

In addition to widespread architectural barriers that exist throughout each of these New York medical institutions, disabled patients allege that the hospitals fail to maintain comprehensive policies to address their needs, which can have serious consequences for their health. For example, they allege that the hospitals lack effective policies for lifting and transferring wheelchair users to examination tables, providing healthcare information to blind patients that they can read and understand, and ensuring that sign language interpreters and captioning are provided for deaf patients and patients with hearing loss.

Plaintiff Milagros Franco, who has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair, described her frustrating experience trying to obtain care: “I was in tremendous pain when I sought emergency care at Beth Israel.  I struggled to get past multiple obstacles and barriers at the hospital just to reach the intake area and waiting room.  Once I was there, no one knew how to use the x-ray machine on a patient using wheelchair.”

Beth Israel, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary are operated by the Mount Sinai Health System. The Mount Sinai Health System, created by the recent merger of Continuum Health Partners, Inc. and Mount Sinai Medical Center, is the largest healthcare network in New York City.

DRA and co-counsel at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP entered into structured negotiations with the Mount Sinai Health System in January 2014 to determine if a comprehensive settlement of Plaintiffs’ claims regarding access to health care for patients with disabilities can be reached.  In the interest of focusing on settlement, DRA and Kasowitz voluntarily stipulated to dismiss the class action lawsuit in October 2014 and continue to engage the former Continuum hospitals in negotiations with the goal of a comprehensive plan to remove architectural barriers, acquire adequate accessible medical equipment, and implement effective policies and procedures for treating patients with disabilities.

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