Federal Court Dismisses Lambda Legal's Lawsuit Against Jackson Memorial Hospital on Behalf of Deceased Lesbian's Family
(Miami, FL, September 29, 2009) — The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida today rejected Lambda Legal's lawsuit filed against Jackson Memorial Hospital on behalf of Janice Langbehn, the Estate of Lisa Pond and their three adopted children who were kept apart by hospital staff for eight hours as Lisa slipped into a coma and died.
"The court's decision paints a tragically stark picture of how vulnerable same-sex couples and their families really are during times of crisis," said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "We hope that because of Janice's courage to seek justice for her family in this case that more people better understand the costs of antigay discrimination. This should never happen to anyone."
While on a family cruise leaving from Miami, Lisa Pond, a healthy 39 year-old, suddenly collapsed. She was rushed to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital with her partner Janice and three children following close behind. There, the hospital refused to accept information from Janice about her partner's medical history. Janice was informed that she was in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as Lisa's partner or family. A doctor finally spoke with Janice telling her that there was no chance of recovery. Other than one five minute visit that was arranged by a Catholic priest at Janice's request to perform last rites, and despite the doctor's acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither Janice — who provided the hospital with a medical Power of Attorney document — nor their children were allowed to see Lisa until nearly eight hours after their arrival. Soon after Lisa's death, Janice tried to get her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for their children. She was denied both by the State of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner.
Today's ruling comes after the Public Health Trust of the Miami Dade County, the governing body of Jackson Memorial Hospital, filed a motion to dismiss the case. The court ruled that the hospital has neither an obligation to allow their patients' visitors nor any obligation whatsoever to provide their patients' families, healthcare surrogates, or visitors with access to patients in their trauma unit. The court has given the Langbehn-Pond family until October 16 to review the ruling and consider all legal options.
Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta is lead counsel on the case for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co-counsel Donald J. Hayden of Baker & McKenzie, LLP.
The case is Langbehn v. Jackson Memorial Hospital.