Pennsylvania Federal Court Reiterates EMTALA’s Inapplicability to Transfers of “Admitted Patients” 

Health Law Alert

March 4, 2015

On February 23, 2015, the District Court in Baney v. Fick held that a patient’s complications arising from elective surgery do not fall under the purview of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, (EMTALA). See 2015 BL 45710, M.D. Pa., No. 4:14-cv-2393 (Feb. 23, 2015). Plaintiffs, a husband and wife, alleged that the medical team managing Brian Baney’s care at Mount Nittany Medical Center should have immediately arranged for his transport to another hospital when he received an esophageal injury following an elective neurosurgical procedure at Mount Nittany Medical Center, and that the team’s care of Baney amounted to a failure to properly stabilize and properly manage Baney’s injury as required under EMTALA. However, the Baney court (citing to Torretti v. Main Line Hospitals, Inc., 580 F.3d 168, 174-75, 177 (3d Cir. 2009), dismissed the plaintiffs’ EMTALA claim with prejudice because the claim “did not fit within EMTALA’s scope,” explaining that:

There is no allegation that the elective inpatient spinal procedure Mr. Baney scheduled to have … was to treat an emergent condition or that he presented as an emergency when he appeared for his pre-scheduled appointment. Rather, Mr. Baney was being given an elective inpatient surgical procedure at a scheduled appointment at Mount Nittany Medical Center and during this procedure a complication occurred, allegedly caused by negligence …. As such, Mr. Baney was already a patient at Mount Nittany Medical Center at the time of his emergency medical condition and he simply cannot be considered as going to Mount Nittany Medical Center for purposes of EMTALA.

The Baney court relied on the analysis undertaken by the 3rd Circuit in Torretti, which in turn relied on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) preamble guidance in a 2003 EMTALA final rule (Final Rule). See 68 Fed. Reg. 53222, 53233, 53247 (Sept. 9, 2003)(clarifying that a hospital’s obligations under EMTALA end once an individual is admitted as an inpatient).

The decisions regarding EMTALA being limited to the initial screening, treatment and admission have not been uniform. For example, the 6th Circuit, in Moses v. Providence Hosp., held that EMTALA violations can occur after a patient is admitted. See 561 F.3d 573 (6th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S. Ct. 3499 (2010). See also Bryson v. Milford Reg’l Med. Ctr., Inc., No. 11-40052, 2014 WL 1327471, at *4-*5, *7 (D. Mass. Mar. 27, 2014) (refusing to find that EMTALA obligations relating to emergency medical services are extinguished by a patient’s admission to a hospital); see also James v. Jefferson Regional, No. 4:12CV267, 2012 WL 1684570, at *3-*4 (E.D.Mo. May 15, 2012)(EMTALA violations cannot occur if a patient was clearly admitted to a hospital). 


Mark H. Gallant

Of Counsel

(215) 665-4136

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