United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
STEPHEN FRIEDRICH, individually and as Executor of the Estate of PATRICIA FRIEDRICH and p.p.a S.F.; and AMY FRIEDRICH, Plaintiffs,
SOUTH COUNTY HOSPITAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM; JOSEPH P. TURNER, D.O.; JOHN and/or JANE DOE, Alias; and JOHN DOE CORPORATION, Alias, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief Judge.
the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
(“Motion”) (ECF No. 44) filed by Defendant South
County Hospital Healthcare System (“Defendant”),
in which it contends that the federal statute on which this
action is premised - the Emergency Medical Treatemnt and
Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”) - does not apply to
the hospital facility at issue in this case. Plaintiffs filed
an Opposition. (ECF No. 49.) For the reasons that follow,
Defendant's Motion is DENIED.
Friedrich (“Friedrich”) presented to the South
County Hospital Medical & Wellness Center's
Urgent/Walk-in Care (the “Urgent/Walk-in Care”)
on September 9, 2013, complaining of severe pain and burning
in her chest and right arm. She sent several text messages to
her coworkers indicating that she “had to get checked
out at the ER” and she “[s]aw south county walk
in hospital from the highway and pulled in to get checked
out! All the symptoms of a female type heart attacked but new
it could't be . . . But since i'm not a doctor i
thought it wax a good idea to get checked out.” (Ex. 22
to Pls.' Opp'n 3-5, ECF No. 49-23 (text left
unedited).) Friedrich was seen by Joseph Turner, D.O. After
undergoing several tests, she was diagnosed with
gastroesophageal reflux disease, given a “GI cocktail,
” and discharged with no follow-up ordered. (Pls.'
Opp'n 1-2, ECF No. 49-1.)
next day, Friedrich was found unresponsive at home. Emergency
Medical Response was called and cardiopulmonary resuscitation
began upon their arrival. She was transported to South County
Hospital in asystole and death was pronounced. An autopsy
confirmed the cause of death as atherosclerotic and
hypertensive cardiovascular disease. (Pl.'s Opp'n 2,
ECF No. 49-1.)
issue in the current motion is whether the Urgent/Walk-in
Care was required to appropriately screen and stabilize
Friedrich under EMTALA. Adopted by the United States Congress
in 1986, EMTALA requires that federally funded hospitals
provide an “appropriate medical screening
examination” to individuals who present to an emergency
department requesting an examination, “to determine
whether or not an emergency medical condition . .
.exists.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(a).
Additionally, EMTALA mandates that when
the hospital determines that the individual has an emergency
medical condition, the hospital must provide either-
(A) within the staff and facilities available at the
hospital, for such further medical examination and such
treatment as may be required to stabilize the medical
(B) for transfer of the individual to another medical
facility in accordance with subsection (c) of this section.
Id. § 1395dd(b). However, a patient who has not
been stabilized may only be transferred if certain conditions
are met. See id. § 1395dd(c). To establish a
violation of the screening or stabilization provisions in
EMTALA, a plaintiff must prove that:
(1) the hospital is a participating hospital, covered by
EMTALA, that operates an emergency department (or an
equivalent facility); (2) the patient arrived at the facility
seeking treatment; and (3) the hospital either (a) did not
afford the patient an appropriate screening in order to
determine if she had an emergency medical condition, or (b)
bade farewell to the patient (whether by turning her away,
discharging her, or improvidently transferring her) without
first stabilizing the emergency medical condition.
Alvarez-Torres v. Ryder Mem'l Hosp., Inc., 582
F.3d 47, 51 (1st Cir. 2009) (citing Correa v. Hosp. San
Francisco, 69 F.3d 1184, 1190 (1st Cir. 1995)).
threshold question in this case is whether the Urgent/Walk-in
Care is a “dedicated emergency department” of
South County Hospital under EMTALA. The Centers for Medicaid and
Medicare Services (“CMS”) - a division of the
Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible
for the Medicare program and the development and enforcement
of regulations on EMTALA - has defined “dedicated
emergency department” as “any department or
facility of ...