HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

EMTALA Provides for Third-Party Claims Against Hospitals

The Sixth Circuit has held that that hospitals may have a duty to third parties arising from EMTALA when treating mentally ill patients.  The opinion in Moses v. Provident Hospital may be found here.   An article in the ABAJournal reports on the details of the case.  Martha Neal writes,

The estate of a suburban Detroit woman murdered by her husband 10 days after he was released by a Michigan hospital can proceed with a suit against the medical facility under a federal law that requires emergency treatment to stabilize patients, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held yesterday.

Reversing a federal trial court's dismissal in 2007 of the case brought against Providence Hospital by the estate of Marie Moses Irons, a three-judge panel said a jury must decide whether Christopher Howard had an emergency condition--or whether doctors at the hospital believed he did--when he was released. One doctor at the hospital had recommended that Howard be transferred to psychiatric unit, but another disagreed when Howard was later released, the news agency writes.

"We recognize that our interpretation ... may have consequences for hospitals that Congress may or may not have considered or intended," says Judge Eric Clay in the court's opinion. "However, our duty is only to read the statute as it is written."

Howard, now 42, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. He killed his 41-year-old estranged wife with an ax as she slept, the AP reports. The company that runs the hospital declined to comment to the AP about the 6th Circuit ruling. However, the hospital had earlier argued that Irons' estate has no standing to sue, as a third party, and that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor law is inapplicable because Howard didn't have an emergency condition. . . .

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