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

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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.”

 

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  1. Welcome to Hendricks County where local and state statutes (especially Indiana Class C misdemeanors) are given a higher consideration than Federal statues and active duty military call-ups.

  2. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  3. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  4. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  5. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

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