• Lessons from Sunderland and Silva
  • August 23, 2017
  • This spring, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued two opinions addressing the quality and effectiveness of communications that hospitals must provide to patients who are deaf: <i>Sunderland v. Bethesda Hospital, Incorporated</i><sup>1</sup> and <i>Silva v. Baptist Health South Florida, Incorporated. <i><sup>2</sup> In both cases, deaf patients alleged that certain hospitals denied them equal access to hospital services in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504”). In each case, the district court granted summary judgment to the hospitals. The Eleventh Circuit subsequently reversed the lower courts, allowing several of the plaintiff patients to proceed to trial. The court’s consideration of these two cases within the span of a month is noteworthy. It is emblematic of the shifting legal landscape for disability discrimination issues—a shift that is spurred by more persons with sensory disabilities bringing claims over alleged denial of their rights, along with rapid changes in assistive technology being relied on by healthcare providers.