The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of an Indiana hospital in a medical malpractice case involving an attempted federal EMTALA claim. EMTALA stands for the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and was enacted to require emergency departments to admit, screen, and stabilize patients prior to any transfers. In Williams v. Inglis MD and St. Vincent Hospital, Williams brought a medical malpractice claim with the Indiana Department of Insurance in April, 2014 and in state court in September, 2014 arising out of his discharge on December 14, 2012. After a Medical Review Panel rendered a unanimous opinion in favor of the physician and hospital, Williams sought to amend his state court complaint on December 18, 2017 to include an EMTALA claim. The trial court denied his request to amend his complaint and Williams appealed. Williams attempted to argue that Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act prevented him from filing his EMTALA complaint until he completed the Panel process and that his action was tolled until such time a Panel rendered its opinion. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, stating that the federal EMTALA claim preempts the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act procedural prerequisites and that the federal EMTALA 2-year statute of limitations applies. Since his proposed amendment to his complaint was more than two years after the alleged wrongful discharge, an amendment to his complaint would be futile.
This ruling provides clarification and direction to hospitals with respect to medical malpractice claims under Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act and claims under the federal EMTALA code. This ruling also prevents a patient from having “two bites at the apple.” A patient may not pursue a state-based medical malpractice claim and then if unsuccessful, pursue a federal-based EMTALA claim.
Andrew Skinner regularly defends and advises physicians, practice groups, and hospitals in medical malpractice cases. For additional information or to speak with Mr. Skinner, he can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 812-425-3592.