Spanish interpreter faces legal actions after sending ambulance to wrong location

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:48
English to Spanish
+ ...
Difficult Situation Apr 15, 2014

That interpreter may have botched it, or it may have just been a difficult situation caused by the reporter's inability to pronounce a street name. Spanish speakers (and those of other languages I am sure) can have great difficulty pronouncing English names, to the point that they become totally unintelligible. Other times they can have their own versions, for example, Myrtle St. in El Paso, Texas is known as "la calle Muertos", and Tays St. "calle Telles" (both exist). As an interpreter when the person was there, I would often have them spell or write it out, otherwise I could never get it from their pronunciation.

Then again, as I understand it 911 is able to get the exact location of landline calls, precisely because some callers like this lady who could not breathe or due to other causes can barely talk. I don't know about cell phones. Again, maybe the interpreter botched it or maybe not.

[Editado a las 2014-04-15 16:34 GMT]


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:48
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Misleading thread title? Apr 15, 2014

From the original article:
"In addition to the City of Portland, the Valdez-Lemus suit also lists as defendants: Language Line Translation Solutions, Lingo Systems, Language Line Service, AT&T Corp. and the unknown name of the company that provided the Spanish-language interpreter in Valdez-Lemus’ case."

Interestingly, it sounds like everybody is being sued EXCEPT the interpreter, unless "company that provided the ...interpreter" is the interpreter's own legal entity.

Given that there are recordings, the facts probably shouldn't be too hard to sort out.

In any case, it does make interesting fodder for our ongoing discussion about the need for liability insurance.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Apr 15, 2014

Rudolf Vedo CT wrote:
In any case, it does make interesting fodder for our ongoing discussion about the need for liability insurance.


This is only the second time I've heard of a language services provider being sued. Actually the first was when a client sued an agency over a job I did, about 20 years ago, but the agency won.
Whenever anyone tries to sell me liability insurance, I always want to ask: How many claims have you ever received?


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:48
English to Spanish
+ ...
Liability Apr 15, 2014

Yes, I've been asking for years if anyone knows of a case where a translator (or in this case an interpreter) has been actually sued. We still don't know whether the interpreter or only the companies are being sued, but it is an interesting case. I have always said that it appears that liability insurance is not necessary because no one has ever specifically documented any lawsuits over professional liability in our field.

Then again, it could be that any 911 operator (no interpreter involved) or anyone else in a message chain could make a mistake in an address or misunderstand it.

And as Rudolf says: Given that there are recordings, the facts probably shouldn't be too hard to sort out.


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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:48
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
Bad law Apr 16, 2014

In my country, a translator / interpreter can be prosecuted only for intentionally wrong translation. I wonder, why the law in that country is so bad that a mistake becomes a crime.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:48
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
"Kill the messenger!" Apr 16, 2014

Did the interpreter cause the illness that killed the woman? No.

Is it the interpreter's fault that the reporter did not speak a word of English? No.

Are interpreters supposed to know the names of all the streets in the area of influence and produce a list of possible renderings of the mispronounced street name, so that the dispatcher can send several emergency teams all around town? No.

In my opinion, the husband acted irresponsibly by not making sure that he speaks sufficient English to be able to respond to an emergency in a foreign country -- it is also possible that he is an American national, which would be even worse -- and that he is able to pronounce the name of his street in an intelligible manner. Not only is he in plain disregard of the community around, but he is putting himself, his wife, and above all his children at risk, with tragical results.

I do not think this event will ruin the interpreter since all calls are recorded and the interpreter's good faith will prevail, but scavengers in Lawyerland will certainly do their best to make him/her lose as much time and sleep as possible over the next couple of years.


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Texte Style
Local time: 12:48
French to English
Whoa there! Apr 16, 2014

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

In my opinion, the husband acted irresponsibly by not making sure that he speaks sufficient English to be able to respond to an emergency in a foreign country


Do you learn how to say the name and location of every place you could possibly find yourself in while travelling? I've travelled to plenty of places where my grasp of the language barely exceeds "hello" and "thank you". Of course I do speak English well enough to speak to emergency services, but I've come across plenty of healthcare professionals and emergency workers with whom it is not possible to communicate in English.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bad law Apr 17, 2014

esperantisto wrote:

In my country, a translator / interpreter can be prosecuted only for intentionally wrong translation. I wonder, why the law in that country is so bad that a mistake becomes a crime.


An action in negligence can be brought against the interpreter (extra-contractual / tort law). The situation is very likely to be the same in your country too.


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Spanish interpreter faces legal actions after sending ambulance to wrong location

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