Suit: Lancaster doctors office dismissed HIV patient over false allegations

By Jim Boyle | Dec 2, 2014

A Lancaster County man and his family claim that a general physician violated the

Americans with Disability Act when it refused to treat them based on a wrongful accusation that he left a large amount of blood in the office restroom, according to a suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The family's identity has not been disclosed in the complaint, which uses the pseudonym Jones to refer to them. Husband Jones seeks a declaratory  judgment against Stephen G. Diamontoni, MD & Associates Family Practice and physicians Dr. Jeffrey Trost and Dr. William Vollmar confirming they violated the ADA. The plaintiffs also demand that the defendants create and implement an anti-discrimination policy and conduct mandatory training for all employees regarding HIV and its transmission. The plaintiffs also seek compensatory and punitive damages against the doctors.

According to the suit, the Joneses moved to Lancaster County from South Carolina to be closer to Mrs. Jones' family. Based on her parents recommendations, the Joneses selected Stephen G. Diamontoni, MD & Associates Family Practice as their primary caregiver and had medical records transferred to the office.

Mr. Jones began seeing Dr. Trost in June of 2013, having his blood drawn at a third party lab prior to each monthly visit. At his October 2013 visit, Jones had his blood drawn at the office for the first time, conducted by the phlebotomist without incident. After the procedure, Jones used the office restroom, then went to the lobby to check out. He made small talk with the receptionist before remembering he left a cup in the bathroom. After retrieving it, Jones left the office.

Four days later, Jones returned for a follow-up consultation for the bloodwork with Dr. Trost. When they finished discussing the results, Dr. Trost handed Jones a letter that said he, his wife and daughter would no longer be patients at the practice.

According to the letter, Jones had been accused of leaving a large pool of blood all over the sink, floor and walls of the restroom during his previous visit. It claims that his actions put the staff and other patients at risk, and that Jones' knowledge of his diagnosis made the actions inappropriate.

"We are sorry to have to part ways in this situation," the letter reads, "but it seems you may not have appropriate concern for those who would like to take care of you and those around you."

Jones claims he had done nothing to create a large amount of blood in the bathroom and was not bleeding when he spoke to the receptionist or when he left the office. No one at the office mentioned he was bleeding while he was checking out, nor did any representatives attempt to contact him out of concern for the potential loss of a large amount of blood.

The complaint says that Jones has been living with an HIV-positive diagnosis since 1992 and the disease has been well-controlled since 2006. He is well-aware of the risks of HIV and exercises the proper amount of caution around his family, according to the suit.

Jones attempted to speak with Dr. Trost and the office manager in person, but they refused to see him. He later received a phone call from the office manager saying the decision was final.

The complaint accuses the practice of using the false allegations as a pre-text to remove the family from its roster because it did not want to provide service to an HIV-positive patient, violating the unlawful discrimination in public accommodations clause of the ADA.

The suit also says the office intentionally inflicted emotional distress with its extreme conduct, dismissing the family even though the medically trained professionals are aware that risk of transmission is negligible as long as proper safety precautions are taken. The letter accusing Jones of putting other people at risk caused the family severe mental anguish.

The plaintiffs are represented by Ronda Goldfein of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and Sarah Schalman-Bergen of Berger & Montague in Philadelphia.

The federal case ID is 2:14-cv-06796-GP.

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