Breaking News
More () »

Flagstaff hospital pays $50K to deaf patient after failing to provide interpreter

Rufus Neal filed a complaint against Flagstaff Regional Medical Center after he spent two weeks at the facility without access to a sign language interpreter.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A Flagstaff hospital has agreed to pay $50,000 to a former patient who was deprived of access to a sign language interpreter for two weeks. 

Northern Arizona Healthcare and its subsidiaries reached a settlement on Tuesday with the Arizona Attorney General's Office to resolve a civil complaint filed last year by Rufus Neal. 

According to public records, Neal felt the hospital discriminated against him by not offering any interpretive services to accommodate his hearing disability. 

The patient filed a claim, alleging the Flagstaff facility had violated civil rights that are protected under the Arizonans with Disabilities Act, which obligates public facilities to be accessible to anyone living with a disability. 

As part of the terms of its settlement, Northern Arizona Healthcare has promised to provide interpreting services and will have its staff undergo training in how to identify the communication needs of deaf patients. 

The Flagstaff hospital will additionally pay a $2,500 penalty to the state for not accommodating Neal's needs. 

“Effective communication is necessary for patients to actively participate in their medical care,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “The Arizonans with Disabilities Act ensures that Arizonans with disabilities have the same opportunity as everyone else to receive medical care based on their individual needs." 

Plenty of hospitals across the country have been sued for not providing sign language interpreters to patients. A Tucson woman claims her deaf husband died in 2016 at an Oro Valley hospital because there wasn't an interpreter who could communicate their information to medical staff. 

RELATED: Class action lawsuit filed against Phoenix for falsely arresting hundreds of protesters

RELATED: A veteran and his service dog were asked to leave a sports bar. Now the bar is being sued.

12 News Digital Exclusives

Go beyond the TV broadcast and learn more about unique Arizona stories on the 12 News YouTube channel. Subscribe for more digital-exclusive content!