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ACLU Wins Landmark Verdict in AIDS Discrimination Case;
Ohio Jury Awards $512,000 to Charon Estate
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 1994
TOLEDO -- A Federal jury today found that a doctor and a hospital in
Fremont, Ohio discriminated against a man with AIDS who sought emergency
medical care for a non-AIDS related allergic reaction, awarding $512,000
to the estate of Fred L. Charon.
The jury found that Dr. Charles Hull and Fremont Memorial Hospital
were liable for discrimination under the Federal Rehabilitation Act of
1973 and assessed $62,000 compensatory damages for pain and suffering
against the hospital and Dr. Hull. The jury also imposed $150,000 in
punitive damages against Dr. Hull and $300,000 in punitive damages against
"The jury has sent a strong message to doctors and hospitals around
the country: AIDS discrimination is illegal and will not be tolerated,"
said Marc E. Elovitz of the American Civil Liberties Union national AIDS
Project and counsel for the plaintiffs.
"This message is especially important in 1994, with more than one
million Americans infected with HIV needing medical care from the biggest
cities to the smallest towns," said Ellen Simon Sacks, a partner in the
law firm of Spangenberg, Shibley, Lancione & Liber of Cleveland and
co-counsel in the case.
"The doctor and the hospital tried to rely on any prejudices that
jurors may have by suggesting that people with AIDS do not deserve the
same medical treatment as everyone else," said Elovitz. "I'm glad to see
that the jury did not follow this `blame the victim' defense. The laws of
this country protect everyone equally, including people with AIDS."
The case is believed to be the first AIDS discrimination claim under
the Americans With Disabilities Act to be brought to trial. Federal
District Judge John W. Potter ruled last week that he would decide on the
ADA claims while the jury would address claims brought under 2 older
federal laws and a state law claim for damages. The ADA was specifically
designed to ensure that people with AIDS and other disabilities would be
free from discrimination in hospitals, doctors offices, and other private
Fred L. Charon was driving through Ohio on a vacation trip to
Wisconsin in 1992 when he suffered a severe allergic reaction to
medication, unrelated to his HIV status. He was rushed to the emergency
room at Memorial Hospital in Fremont, Ohio, where emergency room staff
began to treat him. When the admitting doctor on duty learned of Charon's
AIDS diagnosis, he refused to admit him to the hospital, stating, "Once
you get an AIDS patient in the hospital, you will never get him out." Mr.
Charon was sent a long distance away by ambulance to another hospital.
In the fall of 1992, Mr. Charon brought suit against the admitting
doctor, Dr. Charles Hull and Memorial Hospital, claiming violations of the
Americans With Disabilities Act, the Federal Rehabilitation Act, the
Emergency Transfer and Active Labor Act, and the state common law against
intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress. Mr. Charon died
on March 25, 1993. The suit has been continued by his companion, Bruce
Howe, the representative of Mr. Charon's estate.
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