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Court Hears Med-Mal Claim with EMTALA

A Roanoke U.S. District Court, which has jurisdiction over the federal EMTALA claim of an estate alleging defendants failed to properly screen and treat decedent, a 27-year-old uninsured woman who died of sepsis after being seen in defendant hospital emergency room, can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the estate’s state-law medical malpractice claims against the ER physician and his practice group.

Here, the court has original jurisdiction over count I of the complaint, which alleged defendant hospital and defendant Mountain State Health Alliance violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, a federal statute which mandates that hospitals provide appropriate screening examinations to all patients, irrespective of their insurance status, and stabilize any emergency medical conditions revealed by those screenings before transferring or discharging any patient. The court does not, however, have original jurisdiction over the state-law claims alleged in the complaint against defendant Appalachian Emergency Physicians and the emergency room physician, Dr. Robert R. Bowman Jr., because the parties are not diverse. The court’s jurisdiction over those claims is instead premised on supplemental jurisdiction, because they arise from the “same case or controversy” as the EMTALA claim – namely defendants’ alleged failures to properly diagnose and treat decedent.

AEP and Dr. Bowman request the court to decline supplemental jurisdiction, arguing that the complaint’s state-law claims will predominate over the EMTALA claim. Defendants insist the claims involve different legal and factual questions: the state law medical malpractice claims require analysis of whether Dr. Bowman or others breached the standard of care in diagnosing and treating decedent and whether those breaches proximately caused decedent’s injury and death. On the other hand, the EMTALA claim is concerned only with whether decedent initially received appropriate medical screening and stabilization in the ER.

The court believes exercising supplemental jurisdiction is appropriate here. There is no doubt that plaintiff’s state law claims are borne of the same set of facts as her federal claim. The med-mal claims alleged do not present novel or complex questions of Virginia law. This court has considered claims of this sort on many prior occasions. The court does not believe the state law claims will necessarily predominate over the federal claim alleged here, as they are two entirely separate types of claims.

The court will deny the motion to dismiss the state law claims.

Landel v. Smyth County Community Hospital (Conrad) No. 7:15cv164, Aug. 4, 2015; USDC at Roanoke, Va. VLW 015-3-383, 9 pp.

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