Sixth Circuit Holds That Federal Four-Year Statute Of Limitations Applies To Disability Discrimination Claims Under Section 1557 Of The ACA

Published date23 February 2022
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences, Discrimination, Disability & Sexual Harassment, Trials & Appeals & Compensation
Law FirmArnall Golden Gregory
AuthorMr Andrew C. Stevens

In the face of tragic allegations, the Sixth Circuit has held that a patient's disability discrimination claim against a hospital is not timed barred by the Rehabilitation Act, which borrows a state's applicable statute of limitation (in this case, Tennessee's one-year statute of limitation), because the patient's disability discrimination claim under Section 1557 is governed by the default federal four-year statute of limitations. See Tomei v. Parkwest Med. Ctr., No. 21-5448, 2022 WL 153178, at *6 (6th Cir. Jan. 18, 2022).

Factual Background

As alleged in the complaint, the patient went to the hospital after he fell and hurt his foot and leg. The patient is deaf and communicates using American Sign Language (ASL). So when he arrived, he asked for an interpreter. But the hospital allegedly never provided one. The medical staff allegedly only x-rayed his knee, gave him an antibiotic and ibuprofen, and sent him home.

But the medication didn't help, and the patient's pain got worse. Two days later, he went to the emergency room, where doctors determined he had blood clots in his leg. The doctors sent him back to the hospital in an ambulance and requested that the hospital provide an interpreter for the patient. But when he arrived, the hospital allegedly refused. Instead, the hospital offered a video remote interpreting device to connect the patient with an off-site interpreter. But as alleged by the patient, the connection was too glitchy, and the patient couldn't effectively communicate with the medical team.

A doctor soon performed surgery for his blood clots. Afterward, the patient continued to suffer from intense pain. Without an interpreter, the patient alleged that he could not effectively communicate to the medical staff what he was experiencing. After a few nights at the hospital, the doctors sent the patient home, but the patient's condition didn't improve. Tragically, the doctors were forced to amputate nearly one-third of the patient's leg. As alleged in the complaint, the hospital never told the patient that there was any chance that he'd lose his leg.

About 15 months after he was first denied an interpreter at the hospital, the patient sued.

The Legal Question Presented

The defendants moved to dismiss the patient's discrimination claim under Section 1557 of the ACA, arguing that the patient waited too long to sue and that his suit was time-barred. According to the defendants, Tennessee's one-year statute of limitations for personal-injury suits...

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