Dismissal of Federal EMTALA Claim in Wrongful Death Action

by | Sep 9, 2014 | Case Results | 0 comments

Plaintiff’s decedent presented to the Emergency Department of the MCB client hospital complaining of a high fever and shortness of breath. She was evaluated and admitted the same day, and remained for three weeks, after which she was discharged. She died the following day.

Plaintiff’s son brought an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, seeking damages based upon an alleged Federal EMTALA violation and state law medical malpractice claims. MCB moved to dismiss the EMTALA claim, arguing that EMTALA does not apply where a patient is admitted to a hospital from the ED. Plaintiff argued in opposition to the motion that an EMTALA claim is not limited to ED care, and that the patient was not stable upon discharge. Our research revealed that there is a split amongst the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal as to whether an EMTALA claim is limited to the ED setting, or whether an EMTALA claim may exist even after a patient in admitted as an inpatient.

The United States District Court, Eastern District of New York (Weinstein, J.) granted the motion, finding that the hospital fulfilled its duties under EMTALA by screening and stabilizing the patient before discharging her. This decision is significant in that the Court dismissed the EMTALA claim once we showed that the patient had been stabilized, even if she was allegedly not stable upon discharge. Further, to our knowledge, this is the only Federal case in New York which has ruled upon the issue of the applicability of EMTALA once a patient is admitted from the ED.