Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTLA) is not a federal medical malpractice act: OHIO COUNTY HOSP. CORP. V. TINA MARTIN, ADMIN. OF EST. OF BILLIE CAROL SHREVE, DECEASED; AND DONALD RAY SHREVE, INDIVIDUALLY (COA 2/22/2008)

OHIO COUNTY HOSP. CORP. V. TINA MARTIN, ADMIN. OF EST. OF BILLIE CAROL SHREVE, DECEASED; AND DONALD RAY SHREVE, INDIVIDUALLY 
MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE:  EMTLA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act)
2006-CA-002248
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING IN PART, REVERSING IN PART, VACATING IN PART, AND REMANDING
PANEL: BUCKINGHAM PRESIDING; THOMPSON CONCURS W/SEP. OP.; TAYLOR CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY IN PART AND FILES SEP. OP.
COUNTY: HARDIN
DATE RENDERED: 2/22/2008

CA affirms in part, reverses in part, vacates in part, and remands this case alleging medical malpractice and EMTALA violations.

Decedent was in an automobile collision, transported to Ohio County Hospital, and evaluated by an RN and ER doctor, reporting discomfort. Her condition deteriorated and approximately 90 minutes later she became unconscious. The doctor diagnosed shock and likely hemorrhaging, ordering a CT scan to determine its location. Decedent received blood transfusions. With the scans, the doctor found abdominal bleeding requiring surgery. Finding no surgeons available, the doctor made arrangements to transport her to Owensboro for surgery. She bled to death by the time she reached Owensboro.

Appellees sued, alleging med mal and EMTALA violations, i.e., 1) failure to screen; and 2) failure to stabilize. The doctor settled before trial. The jury found 50% liability each for doctor and hospital (none for other driver) and awarded nearly $100,000 for destruction of power to earn money and pain and suffering and $250,000 for husband’s loss of consortium. Hospital appealed, arguing the TC erred in not granted directed verdicts.

CA holds that EMTALA is not intended to be a federal malpractice statute; it is intended to address patient "dumping" based upon inability to pay. Therefore, violation of EMTALA’s screening requirement must be predicated upon a showing of improper motive, which was not shown here. Further, EMTALA’s stabilization requirement does not prevent transfer, it merely conditions transfer on certain requirements, which were met here.

As to the loss of consortium claim, CA holds that the claim is only viable for the period between injury and death. It does not extend beyond. As no appreciable time had elapsed between the alleged injury and death in this case, the TC erred in not granted directed verdict. The med mal verdict should be affirmed, but, as the awarded damages were not segregated as to each claim, the award must be vacated and remanded for a new trial.

Digested by John E. Hamlet

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