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Vega-Ruiz v. Northwell Health

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 14, 2020


          For Plaintiff: Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, Andrew Rozysnki, Esq.

          For Defendants: Collazo Florentino & Keil, LLP, John P. Keil, Esq., Daniel J. LaRose, Esq.


          Denis R. Hurley United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Lisette Vega-Ruiz (“Plaintiff”) brought this action for violations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act against Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System), Long Island Jewish Valley Stream (formerly Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream), and Long Island Jewish Medical Center (collectively “Defendants”) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and for damages to redress injuries suffered as a result of Defendants' alleged failure to provide Plaintiff with an American Sign Language (“ASL”) interpreter in violation of section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), 42 U.S.C. § 18116. Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).[1] For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


         The following allegations are taken from the Complaint (“Compl.”) and assumed true for purposes of this motion, unless otherwise noted.

         Plaintiff is a deaf individual with limited English proficiency who communicates primarily in American Sign Language (“ASL”). (Compl. [ECF No. 1] ¶ 5.) Defendants operate multiple hospitals in New York City and Long Island. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 6-8.) Defendants receive federal financial assistance. (Compl. ¶ 9.)

         Plaintiff is the health care proxy for her brother, Jose Vega, who is a “hearing (i.e. non-deaf) individual.” (Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) On or around October 13, 2015, Plaintiff accompanied her brother to the Long Island Jewish Valley Stream for a scheduled filter placement surgery. (Compl. ¶ 16.) “During this visit, Plaintiff repeatedly requested an ASL interpreter in order to assist her brother and understand the procedure being performed, ” however Defendants did not provide “any auxiliary aids or services” to Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶¶ 17-18.)

         Plaintiff alleges, upon information and belief, that she “was told by Defendants' staff that she was not entitled to an ASL interpreter because she was not a patient receiving treatment, and since her brother (the patient) was hearing, they were under no obligation to comply with her request.” (Compl. ¶ 19.) Instead, “one member of Defendant's staff named Zoila informed Plaintiff in writing that a Spanish-speaking translator would come at 6:30 p.m. the evening of the surgery, and would return at 9:00 a.m. on the following day.” (Compl. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff contends that the Spanish-speaking translator was unable to provide effective communication for her, (Compl. ¶ 22) and that “Defendants relied entirely on lip-reading and writing to attempt to communicate with Plaintiff.” (Compl. ¶ 23.) As a result, Plaintiff did not understand details about the treatments provided to her brother, such as side effects and dosage instructions. (Compl. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff also alleges, upon information and belief, that “Defendants have a standing policy of denying auxiliary aids and services to deaf and hard of hearing companions.” (Compl. ¶ 20.)


         I. Rule 12(b)(6) Legal Standard

         In deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cause of action, a court should “draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff['s] favor, assume all well-pleaded factual allegations to be true, and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). The plausibility standard is guided by two principles. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); accord Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2009).

         First, the principle that a court must accept all allegations as true is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Thus, “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Although “legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. at 679. A plaintiff must provide facts sufficient to allow each named defendant to have a fair understanding of what the plaintiff is complaining about and to know whether there is a legal basis for recovery. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         Second, only complaints that state a “plausible claim for relief” can survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but asks for more than a sheer possibility that defendant acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line' between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57) (internal citations omitted); see In re Elevator Antitrust Litig., 502 F.3d 47, 50 (2d Cir. 2007). Determining whether ...

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