7th Circuit rules in favor of hospital in EMTALA violation suit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the 2003 definition of when a person is to have “come to the emergency room” is a clarification of the rule in effect in 2001 and that a woman who filed a lawsuit under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act did not come to the Wishard Hospital emergency department under that act.

When Melissa Welch was 34 weeks pregnant, she called 911 because she had begun labor. The Wishard ambulance dispatched consulted with a nurse at Welch’s obstetrician’s office and agreed she needed to go to the nearest hospital, which was St. Francis Beech Grove. That hospital did not have an obstetrics facility, so Welch was examined at Beech Grove but then sent to St. Francis Hospital South in the Wishard ambulance. There she gave birth to her son Joshua Beller, by Caesarean section. He suffered hypoxia resulting in severe brain damage.

Welch brought suit on behalf of her son claiming Wishard violated the EMTALA by transferring her son to Beech Grove instead of delivering him at that hospital and that resulted in his permanent injuries.

At issue is whether Welch and her son had “come to the emergency room” of Wishard Memorial Hospital when they were transported in the ambulance. The 2001 definition in effect at the time of the delivery was later amended in 2003. Both parties agree that if the 2003 definition is considered applicable because it is retroactive as it is just a clarification of the 2001 rule, then Welch and her son would not have “come to the emergency room” of Wishard and their claim can’t proceed.

The District Court held the amended definition was a clarification that applied retroactively and granted summary judgment to the defendants. The 7th Circuit agreed in Joshua Beller, a minor, by his next friend and mother, Melissa Welch, et al. v. Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County Ind., d/b/a Wishard Memorial Hospital d/b/a Wishard Ambulance Service, 11-3691.

“There is nothing inconsistent in the 2003 and 2001 definitions. The two are consistent in holding that an individual will be deemed to have come to the emergency department if that person is in an ambulance owned and operated by the hospital. The 2003 definition merely provided guidance as to what it means for an ambulance to be ‘operated by’ a hospital,” Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote.

“The district court properly held that the 2003 amendment is a clarification, which therefore applies in interpreting the meaning of the 2001 language. Because the Wishard ambulance was operating under the EMS protocol at the time the plaintiffs were in it, the plaintiffs had not come to the Wishard emergency department under the EMTALA, and the plaintiffs’ claim cannot succeed.”



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

  2. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  3. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  4. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

  5. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?