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Stephanie Goldberg

Fla. court denies injured worker right to see Spanish-speaking psychologist

June 5, 2014 - 2:13pm


A worker whose primary language is Spanish is not entitled to a neuropsychological evaluation by a Spanish-speaking psychologist, a split Florida 1st District Court of Appeal panel ruled on Tuesday.

Jesus Trejo-Perez was working for Tarpon Springs, Florida-based Arry’s Roofing Services Inc. when he fell at least 30 feet from a ladder and suffered a closed-head injury, among other injuries, in February 2012, according to court records. His injuries were deemed compensable, and treatment was authorized.

Neurologist Dr. Angelo Alves said the claimant, whose primary language is Spanish, should undergo a neuropsychological evaluation with a Spanish-speaking psychologist “regarding his memory and cognition, as well as his emotional state, with particular attention to the (post-traumatic stress disorder),” records show. It’s unclear, according to the records, how well Mr. Trejo-Perez understands English.

Mr. Trejo-Perez received permission to be evaluated by a psychiatrist using a translator, according to records. He refused to attend the appointment and filed a petition for authorization to see a Spanish-speaking neuropsychologist.

When Dr. Alves was updated on the situation, he said using a translator is not the same as seeing a Spanish-speaking physician “because you could get the wrong information,” records show.

Judge of Compensation Claims Doris E. Jenkins denied the request, as Dr. Alves’ testimony, which was based on the possibility of getting “the wrong information,” didn’t “equate to medical necessity.”

Using an interpreter, Mr. Trejo-Perez said, “For me to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist is to talk about my intimate life, and I don’t want to talk about my intimate life to another person (interpreter),” according to records.

A three-judge panel of the Florida 1st District Court of Appeal voted 2-1 on Tuesday that Mr. Trejo-Perez is not entitled to a neuropsychological evaluation by a Spanish-speaking psychologist, records show.

The ruling states that “a fair reading of Dr. Alves’ testimony is that a Spanish-speaking psychologist would be merely preferable under the circumstances.” And, according to a written opinion, Judge Scott Makar and Judge Simone Marstiller agreed that “medical necessity must be based on more than linguistic desirability.”

In his dissent, Judge Bradford L. Thomas wrote, “No medical testimony supports the … view that the Spanish-speaking psychiatric evaluation is not medically necessary. In fact, as (Trejo-Perez) rightfully asserts, there is no contrary medical testimony at all on this point.”

 



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