Disability Rights on the Docket

Charon v. Memorial Hospital, later Howe v. Hull
873 F. Supp. 70 (1994)

Case Dates:
Tuesday, 24 November, 1992 - Tuesday, 14 June, 1994
Facts:

Fred Charon, an AIDS patient from Portland, Maine, was traveling through Ohio in 1992 when he became ill and was taken to Memorial Hospital in Fremont. Dr. Charles Hull refused to admit him due to his AIDS status. Charon was then taken 45 minutes west to Medical College Hospital in Toledo, where he was admitted.

Charon filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in an attempt to extend the ADA’s anti-discrimination provisions to persons with AIDS. The ACLU also asserted claims under the Federal Rehabilitation Act, which states that any hospital receiving federal aid cannot discriminate against the disabled. Ohio ACLU volunteer attorneys Ellen Simon and Doris Wohl worked on the case, assisted by national ACLU attorney Marc Elovitz.

Unfortunately, Fred Charon died in March of 1993, but the court allowed the case to proceed under his estate, represented by Charon’s partner Bruce Howe.

A jury heard the case in district court in June 1994, which agreed with the ACLU’s argument that Memorial Hospital had violated the Federal Rehabilitation Act. Charon’s estate was awarded $512,000 in damages.

District court Judge John Potter himself ruled on the ADA claims in November 1994, concurring with the ACLU that Dr. Hull’s actions violated the ADA setting a precedent that the ADA applied to people with AIDS.

Judge Potter also ordered Dr. Hull and the hospital to post a sign in the waiting room stating that the hospital would treat all patients.