Ruling adds to extensive case law establishing federal sex discrimination laws to protect transgender people
(San Diego, CA, October 13, 2017)—Yesterday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Transgender Law Center (TLC) filed an amended complaint on behalf of the mother of a transgender boy in her lawsuit against a hospital for discrimination against her son.
Katharine Prescott filed the amended complaint after the Court’s ruling on September 27 that the Affordable Care Act’s sex discrimination protections apply to transgender kids.
The Court also ruled that Ms. Prescott is entitled to seek emotional distress damages on behalf of her son, who died by suicide a few weeks after his experience at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego (RCHSD) for inpatient care.
Katharine Prescott took her 14-year-old son, Kyler Prescott, to RCHSD in early April 2015 for suicidal ideation and for treatment of his serious self-inflicted injuries following an incident of transphobic harassment by his peers.
The hospital was aware that Kyler was a transgender boy and Katharine made clear to hospital staff that her son must be treated as male for all purposes. But during his stay, hospital staff repeatedly addressed Kyler—who came out to his family as transgender at 13 and whose gender markers were legally changed to male—as a girl.
Twenty-four hours into his 72-hour stay, and after several failed attempts by his mother to correct the discrimination by the hospital, the hospital’s psychiatrist determined that despite serious mental health concerns, Kyler should be discharged early from RCHSD rather than remaining for the standard 72 hours. About five weeks later, on May 18, 2015, Kyler died by suicide.
“When my son was in despair, I entrusted Rady Children’s Hospital with his safety and well-being,” said Katharine Prescott. “Hospitals are supposed to be safe places that help people when they’re in need. Instead of recovering at the hospital, Kyler got worse because staff continued to traumatize him by repeatedly treating him as a girl and ignoring his serious health issues. It’s painful to speak out, but I want to make sure no other parent or child ever has to go through this again.”
The suit also alleges that RCHSD violated California laws by discriminating against Kyler based on his sex (including his gender identity) and based on disability, and that the hospital engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by claiming that it was experienced in treating transgender patients, when in fact it discriminated against Kyler and made his condition worse.
“The Court’s decision affirms the growing body of cases across the country recognizing that discrimination against transgender people is sex discrimination,” said Amy Whelan, Senior Staff Attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We will continue to fight for transgender kids and adults regardless of the U.S. Department of Justice’s reckless and legally indefensible abandonment of LGBT people.”
“Hospitals should be safe places for transgender children and anyone in crisis to seek help and care. Medical providers must understand the great harms they can inflict if they discriminate against trans youth,” said Transgender Law Center Executive Director Kris Hayashi. “There is no reason any young person should go through what Kyler did."
In addition to NCLR and TLC, Katharine is represented by lawyers from Foley & Lardner LLP.