Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and Continuum Health Partners Agree to Landmark Class Action Settlement to Improve Health Care Services for New Yorkers with Disabilities

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Street view of Beth Israel Medical Center
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New York, NY—October 12, 2017— Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Continuum Health Partners (collectively, the “Heritage Continuum Hospitals”) have agreed to a comprehensive long-term plan to improve access to health care for patients and hospital visitors with disabilities.

The agreement settles a 2013 lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by Plaintiffs United Spinal Association, Inc., an organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of all people living with a spinal cord injury or disease, and Milagros Franco, Jean Ryan, Christina Curry and Ellen Rubin, individuals with mobility, vision and hearing disabilities who each sought medical care at a Heritage Continuum Hospitals facility.  The settlement is the result of extensive negotiations between the Heritage Continuum Hospitals (now part of The Mount Sinai Health System) and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) on behalf of Plaintiffs, with the assistance of attorneys from Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP.

The agreement provides for the following:

  • Identifying and remediating architectural barriers at more than 10 separate hospitals and outpatient facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn operated by the Heritage Continuum Hospitals.
  • Identifying existing accessible medical equipment and purchasing additional accessible medical equipment where needed, such as adjustable-height examination tables that people with mobility disabilities can use independently.
  • Developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure equal healthcare access for patients and visitors with disabilities in numerous areas, including access to documents in alternative formats for people with vision disabilities, providing sign language interpreters for Deaf individuals, access for individuals with service animals, and handling patient complaints.

“People with disabilities need equal access to medical care,” said Plaintiff Jean Ryan.  “We expect that this agreement will eliminate barriers for patients and visitors with disabilities at the Heritage Continuum Hospitals so that we have the same quality of care as patients without disabilities.”

“Access to quality healthcare is a critical priority for our members,” said Jim Weisman, CEO and General Counsel of United Spinal Association.  “This settlement is an important step toward improving health care outcomes for patients with disabilities.”

“We at the Harlem Independent Living Center are happy this was resolved and the Deaf/disabled community will have access to medical care without encountering further barriers,” said Christina Curry, Plaintiff and Executive Director of the Harlem Independent Living Center.

“The Heritage Continuum Hospitals’ commitments under this important settlement will resolve many of the healthcare access issues faced by patients and visitors with disabilities, which can frequently lead to worse health outcomes,” said Christina Brandt-Young, Senior Staff Attorney at DRA.  “We look forward to seeing significant progress in the rights of people with disabilities in these important New York City medical institutions.”

“We are delighted to be able to assist our co-counsel Disability Rights Advocates in reaching this ground-breaking settlement that makes major progress towards improving accessible healthcare for thousands of hospital patients and visitors with disabilities served by these major New York medical institutions,” said David J. Abrams, partner and pro bono coordinator at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP.

The agreement is available below.

About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)

DRA is the leading non-profit disability rights legal center in the nation.  With offices in New York City and Berkeley, California, DRA’s mission is to advance equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.  DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing class action cases.  Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing.  To learn more about Disability Rights Advocates, visit www.dralegal.org.

About Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP

Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP’s core focus is commercial litigation, complemented by our exceptionally strong bankruptcy/restructuring and real estate transactional practices. We are committed to pursuing aggressive and innovative approaches to our clients’ most challenging legal matters.  Our clients include Fortune 500 companies, private equity and other investment firms across a wide range of industries, including significant experience across financial services (banking, investment management, and insurance), technology, and real estate.  To learn more about Kasowitz Benson Torres, visit www.kasowitz.com.

Contacts

Christina Brandt-Young
Senior Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Advocates
(212) 644-8644
cbrandt-young@dralegal.org

Rebecca Rodgers
Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Advocates
(212) 644-8644
rrodgers@dralegal.org