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CONSTANCE v. STATE UNIV. OF N.Y. HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER
July 2, 2001
NAVELLA CONSTANCE AND VERNAL CONSTANCE, PLAINTIFFS,
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT SYRACUSE DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Chief Judge
MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs, Vernal and Navella Constance, bring this action against
Defendant State University of New York Health Science Center ("Hospital"
or "SUNY HSC"), alleging that the Hospital failed to provide them with a
sign language interpreter in violation of Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131, and § 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act ("Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794.*fn2 They
seek declaratory and injunctive relief along with damages.*fn3
The Hospital claims that it had, and still does have, in place a
detailed written policy outlining how to provide hearing impaired
patients equal and effective access to the Hospital. Pursuant to that
policy, the Hospital informs the patient that, while friends or relatives
are not expected to interpret, they may assist, on a voluntary basis, in
emergency situations. If the patient desires a professional
interpreter, as was the case here, the Hospital contacts an independent
agency to obtain one.
In the instant case, the Hospital maintains that within thirty minutes
of Plaintiffs' arrival social worker Mark Buttiglieri requested an
interpreter from the Aurora agency to assist Plaintiffs in their
communications with Hospital staff. See Affidavit of Mark Buttiglieri,
sworn to June 12, 2000, at ¶ 6. While waiting for the interpreter to
arrive, a respiratory therapist, Mary McCoy, with some finger spelling
skills attempted to assist Plaintiffs. See Deposition of Mary McCoy,
sworn to Jan. 25, 2000, at 6-8, 17. Ms. McCoy stopped assisting
Plaintiffs when one of their friends, Reverend Nagel, arrived and proved
to be more proficient at signing. See id. at 16. The Hospital asserts
that Reverend Nagel served as an interpreter for Plaintiffs. Yet,
Plaintiffs and the Reverend maintain that she never acted as an
interpreter and merely assisted Mrs. Constance in a limited capacity.
Mrs. Constance was kept overnight for observation. In the morning, a
physician examined her with the assistance of a hospital staff member
named Tony, who was taking sign language courses.*fn4 See Deposition of
Navella Constance, sworn to Jan. 21, 2000 ("Navella Dep."), at 28.
Subsequent to Mrs. Constance's discharge on May 19, 1996, Plaintiffs
filed an administrative complaint with the New York State Department of
Health ("DOH"). Thst agency substantiated Plaintiffs' allegations and
sent Defendant a statement of deficiencies for which a plan of correction
had to be submitted.
On June 15, 1999, this Court denied Defendant's motion to dismiss,
brought pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The
Court allowed Plaintiffs thirty days to amend their complaint to allege
that they are likely to seek medical services at the Hospital in the
future. The Court also found that the complaint, on its face, stated a
claim of intentional discrimination.*fn5 See Order, dated June 15,
1999, at 4-7.
Presently, before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment
pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court
heard oral argument in support of, and in opposition to, this motion on
March 16, 2001. At that time, the Court reserved decision. The following
constitutes the Court's determination of Defendant's motion.
A. Standing to seek injunctive relief
In order for a plaintiff to have standing to seek relief from a federal
court, that plaintiff must satisfy three elements: (1) an injury in
fact, (2) a causal connection between that injury and the conduct
complained of, and (3) a likelihood, not a mere possibility, that the
injury will be redressed only if the relief is granted.
See, e.g., Lujan
v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). When a plaintiff
seeks injunctive relief she must "show more than `past exposure to
illegal conduct;' [she] must show a `real and immediate threat of
repeated injury.'" Freydel v. New York Hosp., No. 97 CIV. 7926, 2000 WL
10264, *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2000) (quoting City of Los Angeles v. Lyons,
461 U.S. 95, 102, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983) (internal
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