The United States District Court for the District of Maryland recently granted a motion to dismiss filed by J. Michael Sloneker and Ryan K. Bautz dismissing a medical malpractice action against a regional hospital and physicians who evaluated the Plaintiff. Plaintiff had initially presented to the hospital's emergency department complaining of sudden-onset back pain, bilateral leg numbness, and right leg spasms. After an initial evaluation, Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for two days of in-patient care and treatment. Among other allegations, Plaintiff alleged that he was discharged by the hospital without a proper diagnosis of his alleged thoracic spinal injury and in an unstable medical condition. The sole basis for federal jurisdiction in the case was Plaintiff's claim against the hospital for alleged violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd (“EMTALA”).
EMTALA, commonly known as the “Patient Anti-Dumping Act,” was enacted to prevent hospitals' suspected practice of “dumping” patients who were unable to pay for care, either by refusing to provide basic emergency treatment (“failure to screen”) or by transferring patients to other hospitals before the patients' conditions were sufficiently stabilized (“failure to stabilize”). EMTALA, however, was not intended to duplicate preexisting legal protections, but rather to create a new cause of action, generally unavailable under state tort law, for what amounts to failure to treat. In their motion to dismiss, Mr. Sloneker and Mr. Bautz argued that routine charges of misdiagnosis or malpractice do not fall within EMTALA's scope and that Plaintiff had not alleged facts showing that the hospital had failed to screen him, or screened him differently from patients presenting with like symptoms, or that the hospital had not “stabilized” Plaintiff's emergency medical condition within the meaning of EMTALA at the time of his admission for in-patient treatment.
Judge William D. Quarles agreed that the Complaint failed to state a claim for relief under EMTALA because Plaintiff did not allege facts showing that Plaintiff received disparate treatment or facts stating a plausible claim that Plaintiff had been admitted for in-patient treatment in bad faith in an effort to avoid EMTALA's stabilization requirement. Judge Quarles dismissed the action in its entirety, declining to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the remaining state medical malpractice claims.