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U.S. Attorney Office reaches settlement with Brown Dermatology to improve services for patients with hearing disabilities

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The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that Brown Dermatology has agreed to resolve allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its care and treatment of patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. Brown Dermatology is a private medical practice that provide clinical services at 10 locations across Rhode Island.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office began the investigation after a complainant alleged that Brown Dermatology failed to provide her family member, who is deaf, with sign-language interpreters during scheduled medical appointments. As a result, the complainant alleged that she was forced to interpret for her family member’s medical appointments, a position for which she is not qualified. The U.S. Attorney’s Office investigated and found that Brown Dermatology failed to provide the deaf patient with a qualified sign language interpreter necessary to provide effective communication for at least 12 medical appointments between 2018 and 2021. The investigation also revealed that Brown Dermatology failed to provide at least seven other deaf patients with a qualified sign language interpreter necessary to ensure effective communication during their medical appointments.

Under the settlement signed today, Brown Dermatology agreed to: (1) adopt policies and procedures that ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing receive auxiliary aids and/or services (including sign language interpreters when necessary) that ensure effective communication; (2) train its staff on the ADA’s effective communication requirements; and (3) pay $31,000 in settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, $17,500 will be paid to the patient who is deaf; $3,500 will be paid to her family member (for association discrimination), and $10,000 will be paid as a civil penalty to the United States. Brown Dermatology fully cooperated with the investigation and settlement of this matter.

The case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Amy Romero in coordination with the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.

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