United States District Court, D. Maryland
CATHERINE C. BLAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case concerns the rights of a deaf companion's access to
auxiliary aids when attending the medical appointments of a
family member. The plaintiffs, Patricia Ganzzermiller and her
son Andrew Ganzzermiller, generally allege that the
defendants, the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and Upper
Chesapeake Health System (collectively, the "Medical
Center") discriminated against them due to Mrs.
Ganzzermiller's deafness. The Ganzzermillers have filed a
motion for partial summary judgment (on liability) and the
Medical Center has filed a motion for summary judgment. Both
parties have filed motions to seal. For the forthcoming
reasons, the court will deny the Ganzzermillers' motion
for partial summary judgment, deny in part and grant in part
the Medical Center's motion for summary judgment, and
deny in part both motions to seal.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Ganzzermiller is the widow of Lawrence Ganzzermiller and the
mother of Andrew Ganzzermiller. Mrs. Ganzzermiller is deaf, has
very limited English reading and writing proficiencies, and
can communicate effectively only by American Sign Language
("ASL"). For much of their lives together, Mr.
Ganzzermiller served as Mrs. Ganzzermiller's primary ASL
interpreter. Andrew Ganzzermiller is the adult son of Mr. and
Mrs. Ganzzermiller and has limited ASL signing abilities.
January 2014, Mr. Ganzzermiller was diagnosed with stage four
terminal lung cancer. His related treatment was largely
palliative. Following his diagnosis, the Medical Center
treated Mr. Ganzzermiller extensively for his cancer and
related ailments. Mrs. Ganzzermiller routinely accompanied
Mr. Ganzzermiller to his appointments. Mr. Ganzzermiller was
hospitalized at Medical Center facilities on seven separate
occasions: April 30-May 3, 2014; September 18, 2014; October
21-24, 2014; November 13-29, 2014; December 2-4, 2014;
December 11-18, 2014; and February 16-18, 2015. During each
of these hospitalizations, Mrs. Ganzzermiller visited Mr.
Ganzzermiller daily. For the majority of the time he was
hospitalized, Mr. Ganzzermiller was weak and fatigued. Mr.
Ganzzermiller also attended numerous outpatient appointments
at the Medical Center and underwent colon surgery on November
the course of Mr. Ganzzermiller's treatment, the Medical
Center usually did not provide Mrs. Ganzzermiller with an
interpreter, leaving Mrs. Ganzzermiller confused and unable
to communicate with hospital staff. Mrs. Ganzzermiller claims
that she "continually asked for interpreting
services" during her husband's hospitalizations and
that Mr. Ganzzermiller "also made repeated
requests" on her behalf. (Pls.' Mot. for Summary
Judgment ("Pls.' Mot.") ¶ 42, ECF No.
65-1), The Medical Center, by contrast, asserts that
"Mrs. Ganzzermiller never requested nor did she require
an interpreter.. . because Mr. Ganzzermiller communicated the
information he wanted her to know about his medical care and
treatment[.]" (Defs.' Cross Mot. for Summary
Judgment ("Defs.' Mot") at 3-4, ECF No.
77-2). On occasion, often when Mr. Ganzzermiller
was unable to interpret due to his condition, Andrew would
interpret for his mother, requiring him to begin attending
appointments that he otherwise would not have attended.
Consequently, Andrew missed work, neglected family
responsibilities with his wife and children, and was unable
to drive his wife to the hospital when she was in labor.
Andrew asserts that he asked for interpretation services for
his mother multiple times but that he was denied. (Pls.'
Mot. ¶¶ 54, 57, 78).
Ganzzermiller withheld information about his health from both
Mrs. Ganzzermiller and Andrew. Mr. Ganzzermiller received his
terminal prognosis from oncologist Venkata Parsa, M.D., at an
appointment he attended alone. Mrs. Ganzzermiller attended
subsequent appointments with Dr. Parsa but did not receive
interpretation services. Although Mr. Ganzzermiller filled
out a form indicating that Mrs. Ganzzermiller was permitted
to access his protected health information, the form is
revocable at any time; it was Dr. Parsa's practice to
confirm whether health information may be shared during each
visit. When Dr. Parsa asked Mr. Ganzzermiller if Mrs.
Ganzzermiller needed an interpreter, Mr. Ganzzermiller told
Dr. Parsa that he would interpret for his wife. (Parsa
Deposition, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 7 at 71:6-13, ECF No. 77-10).
According to Dr. Parsa, Mr. Ganzzermiller told him not to
contact Mrs. Ganzzermiller or Andrew regarding his terminal
diagnosis. (Id. at 148:8-18). It was also the
understanding of other Medical Center staff that Mr.
Ganzzermiller did not want his family to know the gravity of
Ganzzermiller and Andrew did not become aware of the terminal
nature of Mr. Ganzzermiller's diagnosis until December
2014, when he permitted the Medical Center to disclose this
information. Even after December 2014, during Mr.
Ganzzermiller's last stay in the hospital in February
2015, no interpreter was provided for Mrs. Ganzzermiller. Mr.
Ganzzermiller passed away at home on February 20, 2015.
April 28, 2017, the Ganzzermiller's filed their second
amended complaint. Now pending is the motion for partial
summary judgment, filed by Mrs. Ganzzermiller and Andrew, and
the cross motion for summary judgment filed by the Medical
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (emphases added). "A dispute is
genuine if 'a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the nonmoving party.'" Libertarian Party of Va.
v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Didaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330
(4th Cir. 2012)). "A fact is material if it 'might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.'" Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Accordingly,
"the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment[.]"
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis in original).
The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S.
650, 656-57 (2014) (per curiam) (citation and quotation
omitted), and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C.
Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th
Cir. 2015). At the same time, the court must "prevent
factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to
trial." Boachat v. Bait. Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir.
1993)). When parties have filed cross-motions for summary
judgment, the court must consider "each motion
separately on its own merits to determine whether either of
the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law."
Paulone v. City of Frederick, 787 F.Supp.2d 360, 368
(D. Md. 2011) (quoting Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316
F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). "Both motions must be denied if the court
finds that there is a genuine issue of material fact."
Ganzzermillers allege that the Medical Center's failure
to provide Mrs. Ganzzermiller with an ASL interpreter, either
in person or via videoconference, constituted violations of
federal statutes. Specifically, the Ganzzermillers contend
that the Medical Center violated Title in of the Americans
with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §
12181 et seq., the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.
§ 794 et seq., and Section 1557 of the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), 42
U.S.C. § 18116 et seq.The Ganzzermillers seek
summary judgment on liability only, reserving the question of
damages for trial, while the Medical Center argues that the
court should grant summary judgment in its favor on all
III of the ADA mandates that
[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis
of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods,
services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or
accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any
person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place
of public accommodation.
42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). To that end, Title III directs
that "[i]t shall be discriminatory to subject an
individual or class of individuals on the basis of a
disability ... to a denial of the opportunity of the
individual or class to participate in or benefit from the
goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or
accommodations of an entity." Id. at §
12182(b)(1)(A)(i). Hospitals are defined as "public
accommodations." Id. at § 12181 (7)(F).
Title III further defines discrimination as the "failure
to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no
individual with a disability is excluded, denied services,
segregated or otherwise treated differently than other
individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and
services[.]" Id. at § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).
purpose of the Rehabilitation Act is to ensure that no
disabled person "shall, solely by reason of her or his
disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied
the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity receiving Federal financial
assistance." 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). While the ADA and
the Rehabilitation Act use different language, "[courts]
construe the ADA and Rehabilitation Act to impose similar
requirements," and each statute "require[s] a
plaintiff to demonstrate the same elements to establish
liability." Halpern v. Wake Forest Univ. Health
Scis., 669 F.3d 454, 461 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal
citations omitted). The two statutes differ only in
establishing causation: The Rehabilitation Act requires that
discrimination be the sole reason for the exclusion, while
the ADA only requires that discrimination be a motivating
cause of such exclusion. Id. at 461-62 (internal
citation omitted). Further, while the Rehabilitation Act
provides that injured parties may recover money damages,
Title III of the ADA permits parties to obtain only
injunctive relief. Proctor v. Prince George's Hosp.
Or., 32 F.Supp.2d 820, 824, 828-29 (D. Md. 1998);
see also Gillespie v. Dimensions Health Corp., 369
F.Supp.2d 636, 640 (D. Md. 2005) ("Although Title III
[of the ADA] does' not allow a private party to seek
damages, it does provide for injunctive relief (internal
party disputes that Mrs. Ganzzermiller has a disability
covered by the relevant statutes, nor do they dispute that
the Medical Center is subject to those statutes. The only
dispute is whether the Medical Center violated the ADA or the
Rehabilitation Act by not providing interpretation services
to Mrs. Ganzzermiller.
Injunctive Relief under the ADA
noted supra, Title III of the ADA permits only
equitable relief. Gillespie, 369 F.Supp.2d at 640.
To establish standing to seek injunctive relief under ...