Defense Verdict on Behalf of Family Physicians in Discrimination Case in District Court

Marshall L. Schwartz and Paul E. Peel recently obtained a defense verdict in favor of two family physicians and their medical group in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  The plaintiff, who is deaf, alleged that the defendants violated the federal Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.§ 794, et. seq., while she was their patient by failing to provide reasonable accommodations for her disability.  Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that she requested a sign language interpreter for each of her appointments but was not provided one.  As a result, plaintiff maintained that she was unable to effectively communicate her problems and concerns to the defendants.  She contended that she felt humiliated and disrespected by the way the defendants treated her while she was their patient.  The plaintiff also alleged that the defendants ended their physician-patient relationship with her solely because of her disability.

Defendants argued that the plaintiff had advised them that she did not need an interpreter at her appointments because she was able to communicate through reading lips and passing written notes.  The defendants explained that, if there was any potential misunderstanding or if they needed to clarify something for the plaintiff, then they would write notes for her to read.  The defendants asserted that, during the entire time that she was their patient, the plaintiff never asked for an interpreter or indicated that she could not understand the defendants and that the defendants never had any difficulty communicating with her.  Defendants also established that their office policy required that an interpreter be provided if a patient requested one. Finally, the defendants testified that they ended their physician-patient relationship with the plaintiff, not because she was deaf, but rather, because she compromised the relationship by verbally abusing a member of their staff.

After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in the defendants’ favor, finding that the defendants did not violate the Rehabilitation Act.

Successful Defense of MRI Facility & Technologist at Arbitration

Anthony P. DeMichele successfully defended an MRI facility and one of its technologists at arbitration in a matter involving claims of professional negligence. Plaintiffs were husband and wife and claimed that the husband was injured when he fell from a MRI table after his MRI was completed. The wife brought a claim for loss of consortium. Plaintiffs argued that the MRI facility and its technologist were liable because the technologist failed to safely remove the husband from the table after the MRI machine malfunctioned. Mr. DeMichele argued that the MRI facility had appropriate policies and procedures in place for the safe removal of its patients in the event of a table malfunction and that the technologist followed these policies and procedures. Further, Mr. DeMichele argued that it was the husband’s own actions and failure to follow the instructions that were provided to him, which caused him to sustain his alleged injuries. Mr. DeMichele also argued that the husband’s alleged injuries were inconsistent with the medical records from his treating physicians. The arbitration panel agreed with Mr. DeMichele and entered an award in favor of the MRI facility and its technologist on all claims.

Dismissal of All Claims for Insurance Agent

In a case involving a claim of professional negligence against an insurance agent filed in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, Anthony P. DeMichele obtained a voluntary dismissal for his client. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed that his insurance agent negligently advised him to switch annuities. According to the plaintiff, he was told by his insurance agent that he did not have enough liquidity in his annuity to satisfy his financial needs. Based upon his insurance agent’s recommendation and advice, the plaintiff switched annuities. After making the switch, the plaintiff learned for the first time that the value of his annuity substantially decreased due to early withdrawal penalties and cancellation fees. The plaintiff claimed that he was not advised of these penalties and fees. The plaintiff also learned that not only did the value of his annuity decrease but the insurance agent earned a large commission as a result of the switch in annuities. The plaintiff claimed that he was unaware of the insurance agent’s compensation at the time the switch in annuities occurred. Further, after the switch in annuities, the plaintiff alleged that he learned that his original annuity had sufficient liquidity for his financial needs and therefore, it was not necessary to switch the annuities.

The plaintiff alleged that the insurance agent recommended the switch in annuities solely for the insurance agent’s own self-interest and at the expense of the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that there was no need for him to switch the annuities and that the only reason he made the switch was because his insurance agent advised him to do so. In relying on the insurance agent’s advice, the plaintiff made the switch and suffered a loss in the value of his annuity. Moreover, the plaintiff claimed that the insurance agent’s commission demonstrated that the insurance agent was acting with his own interests in mind and not in the best interest of the plaintiff.

During an aggressive deposition of the plaintiff, Mr. DeMichele obtained valuable admissions from the plaintiff. These admissions weakened plaintiff’s case against the insurance agent and forced the plaintiff to reevaluate his case. A few days after the plaintiff’s deposition, plaintiff decided not to pursue his case against the insurance agent and filed a voluntary dismissal with the Court, dismissing the case against the insurance agent.