Dr. Juan Moreno vs. Everwood State Hospital

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Statement of Facts

The hospital board of Everwood state hospital dismissed Dr. Juan Moreno, a cardiovascular surgeon, when he refused a ban on surgical duties and a transfer to a research department where he was to conduct experiments on lab rats. The ban came after the hospital’s administration discovered that Dr. Moreno had been diagnosed with hepatitis B he could transmit to patients, even though the chances of transmission were as low as 5%. The previous year Dr. Moreno accidentally acquired hepatitis B after he pricked himself with a used hypodermic needle in the line of duty.

Dr. Moreno’s termination of duties prompted him to demonstrate loudly using a loudspeaker in front of the hospital. He claimed that that the hospital board discriminates and suggested that no one should seek treatment there. The hospital filed a lawsuit against Dr. Moreno accusing him of slander and demanding that he be banned from any further protests

Issues/Questions

In the case of Dr. Moreno against the Everwood State Hospital, four legal questions require a careful analysis in order to come up with an informed judgment, namely:

  1. Since Dr. Moreno was infected with hepatitis B, does he have a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act?
  2. Does Dr. Moreno have a claim under the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution?
  3. Was the ruling against Dr. Moreno justified?
  4.  Will Dr. Moreno succeed in challenging the injunction under the First Amendments of the US Constitution?

Rule (Statement of the Law)

Case 1

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The federal equal protection law in the US is never determined under the heightened review. Therefore, discrimination on the disable may be permitted if the legal bases for discrimination is clear (Savage & Bagley p. 118). However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a legal statute that protects disabled people in the United States against discrimination that may arise as a result of disability. This statute also has a legal provision that caters for the employment of discrimination matters. A disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that may interfere with a persons or other people’s normal life, or a condition that may be regarded by others as a disability. Examples of disabilities include some communicable illnesses, as well as visual or hearing impairments (Jennings p. 404).

 The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a law that prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled and handicapped employees. Pursuant to the act, employers should offer them an alternative accommodation at the workplace (Jennings p. 404). However, in cases when the employer is unable to provide an appropriate accommodation, as may be needed by the disabled person, ADA under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has a provision that allows the employer to apply other necessary remedie, such as payback or injunctive release off duties (Mann & Robert p. 821). The Civil Rights Law of 1964 that allows for termination of the ADA act is supervised by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It requires that before filing a claim against the employer a defendant must first report to the EEOC to investigate the matter with a view of bringing the parties to a voluntary consent agreement. In case the parties can not reach a consent agreement, the EEOC can file a suit against the employer on behalf of the employee, or he/she can file a suit by him/herself against the employer (Cross p. 507).

Case 2

The Law on Equal Protection Clause under the American Constitution

The Privacy Law is a clause in the American Constitution that states that all citizens have a right to privacy of individual health records. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), health facilities should not disclose health information of a person to others, including employers who sponsor health plans without the patient’s permission (Cross p. 123). The Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution states that the state shall not deny any of its citizens an equal right to protection. The fourteenth amendment of the US Constitution also states that the law requires that the government can review some of the legal disputes to some victims who are not satisfied with a legal outcome (Miller, L & Cross).

Case 3

The Law on Slander Issue

The Defamation Act is a tort of slander that concerns an intentionally misleading message about a person or a business through a speech with a view of damaging their image (Edwards, Ringleb & Meiners p 170). The Defamation Act has a provision that the right to speech may be denied if a person is using it against others with an intention of destroying their public image and good name. The law provides for a penalty against any person who may use intentional defamatory speeches against others, of which breaching the penalty and the law is a tort of slander (Miller 7 Cross p.271). On the other hand, damage caused by defamatory statements is a matter of law that may cause the plaintiff to be compensated for the damaged public reputation (Miller 7 Cross p.271). The firm could have also applied the ethical code of conduct to help Dr. Moreno accept his situation and continue to work in his new department. The ethical code of conduct, therefore, could be a remedy for slander instead of an injunction (Miller, Cross & Jentz  p.72).

Case 4

The Bill of Rights and the First Amendment of the US Constitution

The Bill of Rights is one out of the ten constitutional amendments in the US, with the fist amendment having established the right to freedom of speech (Jennings p.145). However, the Environmental Law is a law that regulates nuisances that may be made by an individual or a group of people creating disturbances to the others. The Environmental Law has a provision that allows courts to stop such nuisances through an injunction (Cross p.572).  An injunction is a court order barring someone from doing something (Breadson, Samuelson &  Beaty p. 404). In cases when there is a lot of nuisance going on, an injunction is granted at short notice, provided that it does not cause harm to the person granted against or to other people. A breach of an injunction is a serious offence that is punishable by a jail term. However, court injunctions are discretionary and can be challenged, thus leading to award of damages to the claimant (Martin & Johnson p. 85).

Application

Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Dr. Moreno may not have a claim against the Everwood Hospital. The Rehabilitation Act states that if the disabled person causes harm to others, he or she should be offered an alternative accommodation within the facility. Dr. Moreno had hepatitis B, which is a communicable disease. Therefore, he is regarded as disabled, capable of transmitting the disease to some of his patients. On the other hand, the Everwood Hospital acted according to the Rehabilitation Law, as provided for by ADA, to offer an alternative accommodation, which it did by transferring Dr. Moreno to the research department where he would not be able to transmit the disease.

Under the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution, Dr. Moreno had a claim against the Everwood Hospital. The Privacy Act states that every citizen should have privacy of his or her health records, and no disclosure shall be made, even to the employer who is the sponsor health plans. Disclosure of Dr. Moreno’s heath records to the board of Everwood Hospital is, therefore, a breach of the law, which entitles Dr. Moreno to a claim.

The court’s ruling against Dr. Moreno is perfectly justifiable, since it is in strict compliance with the Defamation Act. According to the Defamation Act, if a person is intentionally using any form of communication that may tarnish the image of another person or business, an injunction shall be given against him or her immediately. By making defamatory remarks against the Everwood Hospital’s administration with a loudspeaker, Dr. Moreno intended to create a bad public image for the hospital.

Dr. Moreno cannot succed in challenging the injunction under the Fist Amendment of the US Constitution. However, he may refer to the Bill of Rights that provides for the right to speech. Under the Fist Amendment of the US Constitution, the right to speech may also be denied under the Environmental and Defamation Acts that are also binding on him. His speech was a nuisance, since he made a lot of noise that bothered other people. His speech was also intentionally defamatory, as it was meant to create a negative public image of the Everwood Hospital.

Conclusion

Dr. Moreno has only one possibility that makes him eligible for a claim, i.e. a claim for equal protection under the US Constitution.  The other cases are binding on him and, therefore, he can not make a claim.

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